Date: Mon, 7 Apr 1997 10:26:38 -0700
Subject: Not exactly double modals

I have no wish to become "Mr. Double Modals," but I kept thinking about
this related usage....

My great aunt always said "used to could." While this isn't a double
modal, it's really the same phenomenon: use of a finite form of the modal
where an infinitive would be used if one were available.

I don't think I ever knew anyone besides my great aunt who actually used
this construction, though I've heard OF it elsewhere, probably as an
element of caricatures of country speech. (The only actual example I
remember is an article by James Thurber denouncing the language of
advertising, saying he expected any day now to see a slogan, "We still
brew good like we used to could.")

My great aunt was not from the South, but her husband was from Tennessee.
He died too long ago for me to remember whether he used the construction
or not.

So my question to you double-modal using Southerners out there: Do you
also use "used to could"?

I've just learned that Scots uses modals this way. Viz. the following
message (prompted by my query about a message the writer had sent to
another list):

Peter -

"Ye'll can" in Scots = "You will be able to" in English. Ither
constructions the same are "I'll no can", "he widnae cuid hae duin whit
ye say", and sae on.

Aa the best,

John Law

Peter McGraw
Linfield College
McMinnville, OR