And the Lord God said: "Be still and know that I am God."
And she replied: "I might could."
And the Lord God said, "Be still and know that I am God." Janet replied, "I might could do that." The Lord noted that "might could" was not standard English but added that standard English itself was a colonial invention developed by cultured elites. "Dialects are beautiful," said the Lord. "Don't let anyone tell you otherwise." Janet explained that, where she comes from, double modals are especially helpful in conveying politeness. "They have a gentleness to them," she said.
The Lord was moved by her explanation and noted that even divine power is of the "might could" type: persuasive not coercive. The Lord said, "Sometimes I might could speak in this gentler way because too often people think of me as a bully in the sky with all the power. They don't know that I'm more relational." They laughed and she replied, "You might could do that." They got together and reframed the Ten Commandments as the Ten Might Coulds.
- Jay McDaniel
There is also some suggestion that double and triple modals are used to reinforce that good ol’ fashioned southern politeness. Some Southerners will explain that telling someone they “should” do something is much bossier than telling someone they “might should” do something. The least intrusive way to say this would be to suggest that they “might oughta should” do it.
The God of Process Theology Speaking in Double Modals
I might could have been able to finish the project of saving the world, but I couldn't do it without your cooperation.
They might should have to consider revising their strategy, because they messed up, but I'll adjust and provide alternative initial aims.
I might would have liked to attend the concert last night, but I don't have a locatable body and couldn't buy a ticket.
You might can't have to wait a bit longer for the results, because the future is open, even for me. I'm not exactly sure what will happen either.
He might must should apologize for his behavior, because it is wrong and he should change his ways. I wish to heck I could force him, but my power is persuasive not coercive.
We might could have to reschedule the meeting due to the weather; because the future is unpredictable and the more than human world has agency, too. There's a lot of things I can't control.
She might would need to have to prepare a detailed report, because she's dealing with a lot of control freaks who are preoccupied with specifics. They don't understand metaphors. I am a fellow sufferer who understands her frustration.
They might should can't have forgotten to bring the necessary documents, but what the hell does that matter anyway. Be kind.
I might could have to ask for help with this complex problem. It's about counting the numbers of Pi, and they don't end, even for me. Can computers help? Not sure.
You might ought to need to reconsider your decision before it's too late; I'll help you by providing an alternative approach.
Some people think I might could have been unloving, but that's not true. It's in my nature to be kind and compassionate. I couldn't do it,
Some people think I might could've sent people to eternal damnation, but that's not true either. It's not in my nature.
Some people think I might could separate myself from all the suffering and joy in the world, but that's not true either. I am relational and loving. I like and need the joys, too.
You might could think you have privilege access to me, as if you know me and other's don't, but there are many ways of knowing me. Be careful with your assumptions.
I might could think that I know you completely, but your are always surprising me with your self-creativity in the moment. I'll be careful with my assumptions.
I might could love you unconditionally. Actually, I do. Isn't it nice that the "can be" actually "is."
You might could think that I am an "I" apart from everything I've just said, but that's not true. My "I" is who and what I am and do. "I" am not a separate self; I am my being there for you.
You might could worry about not understanding #17. No problem. I don't quite understand it either,
- Jay McDaniel
Formal Definition of Double Modals
A double modal is a linguistic construction in which two modal auxiliaries are used in succession to introduce two separate modalities into a sentence. For example, to express that there is a possibility that you have the ability to jump over the bush, you might say something like, “I might can jump over that bush”. In Standard English, you would express this as follows: “I might be able to jump over the bush”.
Imagine that you are the creator of the universe. Or, if that is too strong, the poet of the universe. Or maybe a cosmic Bodhisattva. There are creatures all over the universe, on planet Earth and in other planets, who have agency of their own. You love them and want to work with them.
You want to offer them some guidelines for behavior so that they can get along with one another and enjoy life. You think it would be best, for example, if they spoke to one another in gentle ways, avoiding harsh rhetoric and especially yelling.
In offering this guideline, you don't want to be too bossy or intrusive, and you certainly don't want to use harsh rhetoric yourself. You want to practice what you preach, setting an example. Some Southerners explain that telling someone they “should” do something is much bossier than telling someone they “might should” do something. The least intrusive way to say this would be to suggest that they “might oughta should” do it. These forms of speech are called double modals and triple modals.
You begin to speak this way: "You might oughta should speak kindly to one another."