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Thread: "I could care less"
01-16-2008 05:18 PM #1
"I could care less"
I've seen 3 examples of this today!
If you're trying to say that something doesn't mean anything to you, then the phrase is "I couldn't care less." COULDN'T!! It doesn't make any sense to say "I could care less", I mean... that implies you care.
Is it me? It's them, right?
01-16-2008 06:01 PM #2
01-16-2008 06:05 PM #3
01-16-2008 06:07 PM #4
01-16-2008 07:46 PM #5
I could care less...but it would take effort I'm unwilling to invest in this particular matter.
01-16-2008 08:14 PM #6Moderator Hangout Staff
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01-16-2008 08:34 PM #7
I bet you all could care less that I signed up for plus membership.
01-16-2008 09:41 PM #8
Really irks me too MP. Everytime I see it posted I'm tempted to just reply "Well okay, then care less."
01-16-2008 10:15 PM #9
http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-ico1.htm we have an opinion that says it's interesting, not stupid.
The form I could care less has provoked a vast amount of comment and criticism in the past thirty years or so. Few people have had a kind word for it, and many have been vehemently opposed to it (William and Mary Morris, for example, in the Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage, back in 1975, called it “an ignorant debasement of language”, which seems much too powerful a condemnation). Writers are less inclined to abuse it these days, perhaps because Americans have had time to get used to it.
A bit of history first: the original expression, of course, was I couldn’t care less, meaning “it is impossible for me to have less interest or concern in this matter, since I am already utterly indifferent”. It is originally British. The first record of it in print I know of is in 1946, as the title of a book by Anthony Phelps, recording his experiences in Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II. By then it had clearly become sufficiently well known that he could rely on its being recognised. It seems to have reached the US some time in the 1950s and to have become popular in the latter part of that decade. The inverted form I could care less was coined in the US and is found only there. It may have begun to be used in the early 1960s, though it turns up in a written form only in 1966.
Why it lost its negative has been much discussed. It’s clear that the process is different from the shift in meaning that took place with cheap at half the price. In that case, the inversion was due to a mistaken interpretation of its meaning, as has happened, for example, with beg the question.
In these cases people have tried to apply logic, and it has failed them. Attempts to be logical about I could care less also fail. Taken literally, if one could care less, then one must care at least a little, which is obviously the opposite of what is meant. It is so clearly logical nonsense that to condemn it for being so (as some commentators have done) misses the point. The intent is obviously sarcastic — the speaker is really saying, “As if there was something in the world that I care less about”.
However, this doesn’t explain how it came about in the first place. Something caused the negative to vanish even while the original form of the expression was still very much in vogue and available for comparison. Stephen Pinker, in The Language Instinct, points out that the pattern of intonation in the two versions is very different.
There’s a close link between the stress pattern of I could care less and the kind that appears in certain sarcastic or self-deprecatory phrases that are associated with the Yiddish heritage and (especially) New York Jewish speech. Perhaps the best known is I should be so lucky!, in which the real sense is often “I have no hope of being so lucky”, a closely similar stress pattern with the same sarcastic inversion of meaning. There’s no evidence to suggest that I could care less came directly from Yiddish, but the similarity is suggestive. There are other American expressions that have a similar sarcastic inversion of apparent sense, such as Tell me about it!, which usually means “Don’t tell me about it, because I know all about it already”. These may come from similar sources.
So it’s actually a very interesting linguistic development. But it is still regarded as slangy, and also has some social class stigma attached. And because it is hard to be sarcastic in writing, it loses its force when put on paper and just ends up looking stupid. In such cases, the older form, while still rather colloquial, at least will communicate your meaning — at least to those who really could care less.
01-16-2008 10:31 PM #10
It is could but the emphasis is on the care not the could.
I could CARE less. It is said sardonically to put even more emphasis on not wanting to put any effort as Mad Mark said without putting THIS much emphasis explaining. I've also put too much effort but not as much as rshack, the literate one!
01-17-2008 02:18 AM #11
Doesn't bother me that much. But you know what reall drives me crazy. . .
People who don't know when to use to and too!!!
There is a difference, and one day I'm gonna snap.
That is all
01-17-2008 03:00 AM #12
01-17-2008 03:55 AM #13
I always took it to mean, "I can't be bothered to evaluate how much I actually care." Which I think fits the intended implication just fine. I dunno, it bothers a lot of people but I've never seen the point in getting bent out of shape about it. Plus, language has meaning only when we comprehend it as such, and if "I could care less" and "I couldn't care less" have become understood to have the same meaning, does it really matter?
My favorite mangled English phrase is "Your a looser."
01-17-2008 04:37 AM #14
01-17-2008 04:43 AM #15
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