could care less

David Bergdahl bergdahl at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Wed Jan 31 14:44:22 UTC 2001

Tony Glaser wrote:

> All the technicalities are far beyond me, but at a gut level I just
> don't buy the notion that when Americans say "I could care less" they
> are adopting a sarcastic version of "I couldn't care less". I think
> it is just said as a dismissive comment. Next time someone says it to
> me I will point it out, and I'll be interested to see if they say
> something along the lines of "Well, obviously, what I _really_ mean
> is that I could _not_ care less" or if there is an uncomprehending
> response implying "I just mean that I don't care". Not that the
> speaker's interpretation of what he or she says necessarily proves
> its origin at all . . . .
> Tony Glaser

I'll try again: "I could care less" is the original Yinglish, sarcastic with
proper intonation, and "I couldn't care less" is a goyische attempt to make it
sound waspish.  :-)

Your reluctance to accept the facts of usage and history suggests a misplaced
belief that logic rules language, a misconception for which there are many, many
books and articles available to help you get over it.  Larry has already mentioned
Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct.  (additional bibliography on request)

David Bergdahl            tel:  (740)
366 Ellis Hall     Ohio University  Athens, Ohio 45701-2979       fax:  (740)

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