As a PBX manager (the head phone guy in a hotel) I have always had scripts that say something similar to “Thank You for Calling…How May I assist you.”
This has always bothered me as it just doesn’t sound right to me. I was taught. Can = Able and May = Permission.
If this is so than a grammatical script should be How Can I assist you. (In other worlds How am I ABLE to assist you) Because to say How May I assist you (how do I have your permission to assist you) just sounds dumb to me.
I asked the Grammar Lady on the internet and she said that I am correct but that AT&T in the 50’s decreed MAY to sound better and insisted their operators do it like that and over the years it changed.
The GM of the hotel says it is grammatically correct as we first must get the guest’s permission BEFORE we can as if we are able to help. But calling us on the phone seems to imply they have given us that permission already.
Any thoughts?? Thank you.