The “joke” below about the distinction between “can” and “may” crossed my Facebook feed a couple of times this week. The last time I heard this joke I was around 10 years old, meaning more than 50 years ago, so I am a little bit more than surprised that anyone today would comment on the distinction between “can” and “may” in making polite requests, or even think that such a distinction exists. Nonetheless the post has received tens of thousands of likes and shares. After nearly 40 years of teaching English Language and Literature, I think I can say, based on my own authority and that of most grammar books published in the last three or four decades, that if there ever was a polite-request distinction between “can” and “may” it disappeared at least 40 years ago. I have a strong suspicion that the reason this kind of false distinction persists is that if you press a less-than-fully competent teacher of English or uninformed speaker of the language to explain the differenc
Showing posts from September, 2015
Will the Government Use C-51, Anti-Terrorism Legislation, to Track Canadian University Students with Outstanding Loans?
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Ottawa has instructed the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to be more aggressive in collecting outstanding student loans. According to the Globe and Mail : The Government annually has to write off some of the $16 billion owing in student loans for a number of reasons: a debtor may file for bankruptcy, the debt passes a six-year legal limit on collection, or the debtor can’t be found. (B2, 31 Aug 2015) For more detail on how the government has disallowed University graduates from declaring bankruptcy and extended the 6-year limit to 15 years, see my earlier post When Should You Repay Your Student Loan? How about . . . Never! However, the real cause (“90% of cases”) of non-payment is that CRA has lost track of student borrowers because “the CRA wasn’t allowed to ask other departments for help because of privacy laws” (B2, 31 Aug 2015). What the Globe article doesn’t mention is the possibility of using C-51, anti-terrorism legislation, to solve the problem. In case yo