In Appalachia we offer advice like this:
- you might could soak the plants in water to revive them
- you could might soak the plants in water to revive them
- you might can soak the plants in water to revive them
- you mighta coulda soaked them plants in water to revive them
- you might ought to soak those plants in water to revive them
- you might should soak them plants in water to revive them
- you might should ought to soak those plants in water to revive them
- you might would want to soak those plants in water to revive them
A conversation I had with a gentleman the other day got me to thinking about how I use the word might. Every one of the phrases above are ones I would say myself-and all are common usages of the word might in Appalachia.
As I studied on the way might is used in the Appalachian dialect, I went straight to my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English. This is what the dictionary had to say:
Modal auxiliaries in Smokies speech differ from general usage only
in usage, not in form. As in other Southern varieties of American English,
might and occasionally may combine with other modals to express conditional
force and indirectness.
After I read that I thought AH HA! The dictionary described exactly what I had been thinking about the usage of might. No not the modal auxiliary part, but the last part: to express conditional force and indirectness.
Sometimes when I tell people “they might could or might should do something or the other” I really mean they ‘might’ do it-in other words I haven’t a clue if it will work. But often when I suggest someone ‘might could or might should do something’ I really mean “You should listen to me and do exactly what I’m telling you because I know what I’m talking about.” So why don’t I just say that? I believe the use of might in Appalachia can be directly connected to the way we look at life.
- Most native Appalachians will go to great lengths to avoid offending someone directly. Telling someone they ‘might could’ is a more tender way of giving advice.
- Most native Appalachians are modest as well. I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve heard Pap suggest a solution to someones problem in such a modest manner that it left them wondering how someone as quite spoken as Pap could give them the answer they’d been searching for. There again-‘might could’ is a modest way of offering advice to someone without coming off like you think you’re the smartest person on Earth who holds all the answers.
How about you-do you ‘might could’, ‘might should’ or ‘might ought’?