Frazz by Jef Mallett


Comments (22) (Please sign in to comment)

  1. rshive

    rshive said, over 3 years ago

    Hard to tell the difference sometimes.

  2. PapaBishop

    PapaBishop said, over 3 years ago

    Why doesn’t that teacher correct their English? It’s “may I.”

  3. Varnes

    Varnes said, over 3 years ago

    I think he made a rash judgement……

  4. furrykef

    furrykef said, over 3 years ago

    “Can I” is perfectly fine English. The “rule” that you must use “may” instead of “can” is arbitrary and made up, having no basis in historical usage.

    It may surprise you, but just because a teacher insists on something doesn’t mean it’s true.

  5. T_Lexi

    T_Lexi said, over 3 years ago

    The difference between “Can I” and “May I” is in the implication. “Can” implies ability to do whatever; “May” implies asking permission to do whatever.
    Child: Ma! Can I jump off the roof?
    Mother: Well… You certainly can, but you should not, and you may not.

  6. Strod

    Strod said, over 3 years ago


    Not really. Just check your favorite dictionary. For example Merriam-Webster:
    can: […] 2 : have permission to —used interchangeably with may you can go now if you like
    can: […] 5 may; have permission to: Can I speak to you for a moment?
    Or the New Oxford American Dictionary that comes with Mac OS X:
    can: […] 2 be permitted to: you can use the phone if you want to | nobody could legally drink on the premises.
    The latter does have a comment on usage (emphasis mine):
    usage: Is there any difference between can and may when used to request or express permission, as in may I ask you a few questions? or can I ask you a few questions? Many people feel that can should be reserved for expressions denoting capability, as in can you swim?, rather than for those relating to permission.  May is, generally speaking, a politer and more formal way of asking for something, and is the better choice in more formal contexts.*

  7. sonorhC

    sonorhC said, over 3 years ago

    It still leads to confusion sometimes. Like when a student asked me “Can you pass me that stapler on the table?”, and I answered “no”. I wasn’t being rude; the stapler was bolted down onto the table to discourage casual theft.

  8. annieb1012

    annieb1012 said, over 3 years ago

    @furrykef “just because a teacher insists on something doesn’t mean it’s true.”

    No argument there, as teachers can/may have misconceptions, varying viewpoints, and so on. But you have illustrated one of my own pet peeves about conversational word usage, which is “just because doesn’t mean.” The phrase “just because” is not a noun or a noun phrase, and so cannot/should not be used as the subject of the verb phrase “doesn’t mean.” One might say instead, “The fact that a teacher insists on something doesn’t mean it’s true,” or “A teacher’s insistence on something doesn’t make it true,” or any of several other combinations. I don’t mean to jump on you personally, but just to vent about something I was taught many years ago is a mistake, and which is still a mistake no matter how common it is!
    One of my daughter’s teachers was the first person I heard respond to a question like Caulfield’s by saying, “I don’t know, can you?”

  9. Jerry Carlson

    Jerry Carlson said, over 3 years ago

    The substitute teacher told the kids that if they behaved themselves she’d give them a French lesson.

    After a trouble-free hour a child asked, “Can we have our French lesson now?”

    “Mais oui!” replied the teacher, enthusiasttically.

    “Alright, MAY we have our French lesson now?”

  10. annieb1012

    annieb1012 said, over 3 years ago

    @Jerry Carlson Ha! Good one….

  11. comicsssfan

    comicsssfan said, over 3 years ago


    “It may surprise you, but just because a teacher insists on something doesn’t mean it’s true.”
    It would surprise me if a public middle or high school teacher even said something that was true. They used to tell us there were a lot of factory jobs waiting for us. No need to get anxious over our studies, the way we should over sports. But factory work was already being outsourced. There were no factory jobs available, not that they would ever give a care.

  12. bigpuma

    bigpuma said, over 3 years ago

    If improper usage of a word or phrase becomes widespread enough, it will eventually be considered “accepted” usage. That fact can (may?) be hard for some to accept. I’ve learned that it does little good to squawk about it. You’ll be perceived as a peevish fuss-budget. And the only people who won’t see you in that way are other peevish fuss-budgets. (And yes, I know that I used the “indefinite you”.)

  13. annieb1012

    annieb1012 said, over 3 years ago

    @ Sharuniboy Not sure what incident you’re referring to in your post @ comicssfan, but my neighbor quit her elementary-school teaching job in Thornton, CO just a couple of years ago because she couldn’t stand the administrators’ and teachers’ attitudes toward the children. She wanted to bring writers and other professionals she knew to their Career Day, but these were nixed in favor of military recruiters. ONLY military recruiters. It was stated categorically that these low-income, mostly Hispanic kids would have no shot at any career other than the military, so why waste energy showing them anything else? At that very same time, the Denver School of Science and Technology, with its intense emphasis on college preparation, was graduating low-income Hispanic, black, and white kids (as well as better-off kids) and sending them off to four-year colleges. And they’re doing really well. The assumptions and attitudes of the adults in a school can have a lot to do with how kids shape their own lives.

  14. annieb1012

    annieb1012 said, over 3 years ago

    @bigpuma “If improper usage of a word or phrase becomes widespread enough, it will eventually be considered “accepted” usage.”
    That’s for sure, and has been throughout history! It’s interesting to watch the process and weigh in sometimes, though. And there’s no doubt, too, that in general the folks who most enjoy the weighing-in part are us peevish, fuss-budget grammarians, and so we “share” mostly with each other. You might be surprised, though, at how broad the audience actually is. Over the years I’ve enjoyed newspaper columns on language, word usage, and so on by James Kilpatrick, William F. Buckley, William Safire, Ruth Walker, and others. Weighty subjects such as the comma before “and” in a series, and so forth, would be discussed.
    A few years ago, there was a very funny book on punctuation that was a best-seller. Here’s Wikipedia:

    “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation is a non-fiction book written by Lynne Truss, the former host of BBC Radio 4’s Cutting a Dash programme. In the book, published in 2003, Truss bemoans the state of punctuation in the United Kingdom and the United States and describes how rules are being relaxed in today’s society. Her goal is to remind readers of the importance of punctuation in the English language by mixing humour and instruction.
    Truss dedicates the book “to the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers of St. Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian Revolution”; she added this dedication as an afterthought after finding the factoid in a speech from a librarian."
    “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” describes a gunman in a cafe. “Eats Shoots and Leaves” describes a panda. Punctuation matters!

    A few decades back, there was a bit of a kerfuffle over the fact that dictionaries had, pretty much across the board, stopped acting as authorities on these matters in favor of reflecting current usage without reference to rules or traditional preference. Hence the post from Strod, earlier today, citing a dictionary comment that “can” may’can be used interchangeably with “may.”
    P.S. I absolutely love the phrase “peevish fuss-budgets.” Thanks!

  15. vwdualnomand

    vwdualnomand said, over 3 years ago

    just wait to med school. they show everything. rashes, bunions, etc…

  16. Load the rest of the comments (7).