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Today’s conundrum centers around the debate between “may” and “can.” This one’s fairly simple – if you’re asking permission to take something or to do something, use “may.”

“Susan, may I please use your car this afternoon?”

Normally, you wouldn’t be caught dead in her car, but you’re in a bit of a bind, so you suck it up a bit and ask permission. Susan’s delighted and hands you the keys to her ancient Rambler.

If you’re carrying on the time-honored tradition of gleeking and want to demonstrate this wonderful talent to a gathering of friends, you’d use “can” to indicate that you have the ability to perform this miraculous feat. For those of you not in the know, “gleeking” is a term used to mean the projection of saliva from the submandibular gland by compression of the tongue. Try it sometime!

Anyhow, to impress your friends, you’d say:

“Look at this – I can gleek 10 feet!”

So remember – “may” indicates asking permission, while “can” indicates ability. Not sure where gleeking will get you, but good luck!

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