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Grammar Guy:

Curtis Honeycutt

Falling coconuts kill an estimated 150 people worldwide every year. Because I don’t want to get killed by a falling coconut, I’m working on a patent for a combination shield/umbrella, which I’m thinking about calling the shumbrella (coming soon to a Bed Bath and Beyond near you).

Falling from a height of 80 feet, coconuts can reach speeds of 50 mph. And, even though I haven’t noticed any coconut trees in Indiana (yet), a coconut could fall out of a plane, get shot out of a cannon or spat out of a really intense geyser, make an impact with my head and kill me. It could happen.

What I really want to know is, when talking about my chances of getting killed by a falling coconut, should I use may or might? Is it, “I may die as a result of the impact of a falling coconut,” or “I might die as a result of the impact of a falling coconut?”

When it comes to may or might, it’s a matter of likelihood. If something may happen, it’s more likely than something that might happen. The incredibly unscientific way I remember which one to use is: may = yay; might = yeah right. As in, may could very well happen (yay) and might has a much smaller probability of occurring (yeah right).

Based on an incredibly small likelihood, I would correctly say I might die as a result of the impact of a falling coconut. As a left-handed person, I’m much more likely to die from operating a product intended for right-handed people. It happens to approximately 2,500 southpaws each year. And, with my poor track record using traditional, right-handed can openers, I would correctly say I may die while improperly operating equipment intended for right-handed users.

I’m actually a little worried about the statistic about equipment killing lefties. After all, at 10% of the world’s population, our quantities are already limited. Let’s just say I’m unlikely to operate a chainsaw anytime soon; I might use a chainsaw, but I probably won’t.

Curtis Honeycutt is a freelance humor writer. Connect with him on Twitter (@curtishoneycutt) or at curtishoneycutt.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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