Mightened?

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Suzanne Kemmer sent along this example from a web forum:

I read on the internet that this means he mightened get along with another rabbit. [emphasis added]

I don’t think that I’ve seen this before.

But it’s out there:

I hadn’t considered the fact that my Junior mightened fit into a Les Paul Standard case.
Do you hold back on giving your opinion because you know someone else mightened like it?
Oh, and something people mightened have noticed, Arctic Monkeys beat every Beatles album, ever, EVER.
Ive deleted heaps of stuff of my computer cause i thought there mightened be enough space, but it still wont work.
this mightened make a whole lotta sense but if your bi and want to score guys whats wrong with gay guys?
The horse owner mightened mind you not having a stable but I would think you should try to have one of some description.
Its happened to me twice, it mightened be a case of Dragonless Dragonstorm but I’m pretty sure it is.
I mean, after all, he mightened have known what constitutes pure happiness and hence wasn’t afraid of having sex with Buffy later and got a rather big surprise?

Does the re-analysis make any sense? Well, might is technically the preterite form of may, mostly used in these cases for “modal remoteness“. So re-analyzing “mightn’t” as might+en+ed gives it a slightly more regular-seeming preterite form (with the irregular form in there too, just in case, like the kid who holded the baby rabbits). And perhaps ‘en’ is seen as a funny way of spelling the ‘n’ of a contracted negation.

So I guess, in retrospect, it’s not totally unexpected. But if you’d asked me, I wouldened have predicted it.



32 Comments

  1. mollymooly said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

    I have a feeling the final /t/ of mightn’t is quite often voiced; more so than other -n’t forms. (Why? Possibly to pattern with heightened/tightened/brightened/etc.?) If true this would encourage an -ed analysis.

  2. majolo said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

    And of course, “wouldened” is out there too, but much less (I get 13 google hits other than this post for “wouldened”, and 381 for “mightened”) although I’m pretty sure mightn’t is actually much less common than wouldn’t. I wonder if the intervocalic t versus d affects the realization of the final t.

  3. richard said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

    I’ve certainly heard “mighten,” as well as “woulden” and “shoulden” (no -ed) around here (southern Wisconsin), usually combined with “of,” as in “he mighten of done it.” These examples are much more clearly “mightn’t ‘ve” than the ones you found, I think. When the meaning is not negation, the “of” tends to become “a” (“uh”), at least as I hear it. Thus the term “shouldawent” for a driver who turns left after their traffic light (I should say “stop-and-go light”) has already turned red: they shoulda went before.

  4. Tim said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

    Doesn’t this probably result from the same phenomenon by which “-‘ve” becomes “ of“?

  5. Tim said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

    In fact, now that check, I see that there are 73 ghits for “mightened of”.

  6. Tim said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

    I also see that Richard there beat me to it. Ah, well.

  7. James said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

    Here are two “wouldened” examples from the wild:

    (1) I like the mat cut for LW’s on the leg Emboss’s but its not like it benefits much cuz every 1 needs leg enhancements and its not like we wouldend buy or farm the mats if it would profit more stats than a regular leg enhancement instead of the mat cut.

    Hm, something goes wrong with the html when I try to put both in the same comment. Second one in a separate comment to follow.

  8. James said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

    (2) nooooooooooooo i wouldend use streched head bolts i would use strech head bolts or zvh head bolts you can get them from burton power

  9. Twitter Trackbacks for Language Log » Mightened? [upenn.edu] on Topsy.com said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

    […] Language Log » Mightened? languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2553 – view page – cached August 14, 2010 @ 3:05 pm · Filed by Mark Liberman under Variation, Writing Tweets about this link […]

  10. majolo said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 4:08 pm

    My favorite wouldened is from a C-Span transcript:

    Domenici, Pete V. – U.S. Senator, [R] New Mexico
    TO COME DOWN ON THE FLOOR HERE LATER ON AND SAY NOW YOU’RE GETTING INTO MY PARTICULAR BILL. I THINK YOU WOULDENED STAND THE SENATOR FROM KANSAS’S AMENDMENT,…

  11. John Lawler said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 5:15 pm

    No “mayened”, however, which speaks to the extreme rarity of “mayn’t”.

  12. Michael Johnson said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

    I found ‘oughtent’. Example:

    Whenever I try on trousers I have to pretend to sit in them to see if Il be displaying anything I oughtent. Do belts help?

  13. Michael Johnson said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

    Ooh, and ‘oughtend’:

    You have the support net here where you can bounce off when you feel to depressed about being out of work, but with some careful planing and thinking it oughtend be to long before you are making money again with what you do!

    http://www.eurotrib.com/comments/2007/9/5/73618/59088/97?mode=alone;showrate=1

  14. Michael Johnson said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

    OK, last post from me.

    couldn’t

    i was frozen in my tracks,the tears started streaming down my face,and he told me to tell dougie i couldened see him no more,and that if i tryed to he would send me to reform school,

    hadn’t

    i got up and streched. sycthe was probally asleep in the jet. i took off my mask. i hadened done that in weeks. i felt the soft rain pelt on my face.

    shouldn’t

    I looked at the monitor I said to the doctor shouldened there be a heart beat to which the doctor replied we will schedule you for a big scan on monday.

    wasn’t

    I rescued this cat from a park where someone dumped it when it wasened even weaned and it keeps biting people.

  15. Rachel said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

    Huh. I don’t know anyone who says “mightn’t.” I was under the impression that it was about as dead as “shan’t.”

  16. Xmun said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

    Rachel, you mightn’t know any such people, but I do. Perhaps I should now delete this silly comment? No, shan’t.

  17. Adrian Bailey said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

    Tim, there are 33 ghits for “mightened of”. Ignore the number they give at the top of the first page – it’s always wrong.

  18. Sarra said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

    There are dialects, UK and US, in which ‘thousand’ becomes pretty much ‘thousant’.

  19. Mr. Fnortner said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 11:30 pm

    The struggles of poor spellers to put letters to sounds shouldn’t (shouldened) be linguistically interesting. Seems like elitist snobbery to me.

  20. John Lawler said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 11:59 pm

    True. However, to the extent they represent a re-parsing of a modal auxiliary into a participle or a tensed form as a different way to make sense of a phrase, they’re interesting, just like eggcorns.

  21. the other Mark P said,

    August 15, 2010 @ 3:17 am

    The struggles of poor spellers to put letters to sounds shouldn’t (shouldened) be linguistically interesting.

    I disagree entirely, though they should not be mocked.

    I’m a Maths teacher. I watch students struggle all the time, and the errors they commit are extremely important. Those errors indicate how they are thinking. In my case, that often leads me into ways to improve performance.

    For those interested in how people deal with language, ignoring errors would be equally foolish.

    Image studying language and only looking at perfect examples!

  22. Karen said,

    August 15, 2010 @ 8:36 am

    I say “mightn’t” all the time, myself. So do lots of people I know. My sister, who is a spelling-challenged RN, spells it that way (mightened) in casual writing, but she devoices it like most people I know who say it. Generally, it’s spelled “might not”, thought, as lots of people have been taught (and grammar checkers reinforce the teaching) not to use contractions in writing.

  23. Erin said,

    August 15, 2010 @ 11:10 am

    For what it’s worth, my father’s side of the family comes from the Missouri Ozarks, and I have heard my grandmother, aunts, and uncles say “mighten-ta.” From what I recall, it meant “might need to” or something similar to it but more like “ought.” Examples that seem appropriate, by my experience: “You mighten-ta [might need to, not ought to] get a screwdriver instead of pliers, but maybe not” and “You mighten-ta [ought to] hold off on getting that car if you have to take out a loan to buy it.”

  24. Mr Fnortner said,

    August 15, 2010 @ 11:25 am

    I will be happy to let “the other Mark P” rescue my comment, and his explanation contains thoughts I wish I had written here.

    Many errors fall into patterns, as do these dn’t -> dened misspellings. Whether these sets reflect multiple independent instances of innovative thinking, or whether we are drawing this conclusion based only on consistently repeated bungles forced by peculiarities of English orthography, is probably a research topic. Are we drawing a bullseye around bullet holes, or have the marksmen actually hit a new target?

  25. tablogloid said,

    August 15, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

    While we’re at it, let’s not forget to mention, “mustn’t.”

  26. Mr Punch said,

    August 15, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

    These are misspellings of an odd kind. They aren’t purely phonetic, in the sense that “might” and “would” themselves aren’t spelled as they’re pronounced in the first place. But they’re also not based on a misunderstanding of the words, because the words are used correctly — even though the misspellings lose the “not” that is the key to their meaning. (This is why they’re not at all likely to become common usages.) They look like careless writing by people who don’t write much.

  27. Chris Travers said,

    August 15, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

    Mussent
    The 5th roommate mussent be inlisted in any of the armed forces, thats a tender subject.

    Wassent seems to be fairly common though sometimes it is for wasn’t and sometimes for was sent.

  28. Boris said,

    August 16, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

    I can imagine writing something like mightened when distracted, especially there is another similarly spelled word around. It’s not a reanalysis as much as a thinko in my case.

  29. octopod said,

    August 16, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

    “Mightened to” as a recommendation? Sounds like German…

  30. Julie said,

    August 18, 2010 @ 9:59 pm

    Erin: Could that actually be a contracted “might want to?” Certainly I use “might wanna” all the time. “You might wanna get a jacket before you go out.” “Might ‘nta?”

  31. Michael Johnson said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

    I can’t resist. More of the paradigm, found in the wild:

    needn’t:

    You are a perfect candidate for a custom frame. From the post you
    should be riding a 64 or 65×55 or so which you won’t find in any bike
    shop. Find a shop skilled in fitting and order away. It *needened* be
    very expensive.

    mustn’t:

    [S]he made shitty remarks about me being there for the long haul because there was no jobs.She *mustened* have realised she was doing it because when I snorted back at her she leapt up and shouted:”Are you calling me a pig? Do my feet have little trotters?”

    I was thinking that perhaps “reanalysis” is not the best way to classify this (nor is “misspelling” the whole story). I mean, there’s no reason to think people have access to their analyses of grammatical constructions. What’s in their mental grammar may be “need + not”, but they needn’t know that. What the misspellings might indicate is that they have a false conscious analysis of what their unconscious analysis is. This would then be different from something like a grammatical reanalysis, where an individual’s standard mental grammar deviates from her linguistic community (or prior generations’ linguistic community).

    I guess that’s why I’m so interested by the case. Which is it: careless misspelling; reanalysis; or conscious unawareness of unconscious grammar? And how do we tell?

  32. Ruth Moody said,

    May 2, 2012 @ 7:39 am

    Mr. P. just doesn’t have a poetic response in his body. What’s precious is, “My feet don’t have little trotters”. Mr. F just wasn’t privy to people who used this word as my Mother, who was an English teacher. We always pronounced to as to, not ta, and surely as surely not shorely. I do not like the POTUS mispronouncing these two words as he uses them constantly. I should have thought this would not bother me so much but it darn well does. “I mightened have but then I rethought the situation and likened it to where I used to live and quickly decided in the affirmative.”

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