"can do so much"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun May 24 19:22:48 UTC 2009

Thanks, Ben. 1955 fits my military-service time line. And if "couldn't
care less" appeared in print as early as 1944, that also sounds right,
since that phrase seems to be something that I've heard all of my life
and May 15, 1944, was the date of my <ahem>th (childhood) birthday.

At one time, I found it strange that a lot of "old people" didn't care
to have their exact ages bruited about. I *still* find it strange,
but, somehow, I can now relate to it.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Sat, May 23, 2009 at 9:58 PM, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: "can do so much"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Sat, May 23, 2009 at 3:39 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Was there any conclusion arrived at as to the (historical) origin of
>> "I could care less"? I first heard it used in the Army in the late
>> '50's. Neither I nor any other of the 400 or so recruits in my
>> training company had ever heard it before - the phrase engendered much
>> discussion in the barracks. Yet, among seasoned soldiers (BTW, has
>> anybody else noticed that, on the TV show, NCIS, marines are almost
>> always referred to as "soldiers"?), "I could care less" was already
>> used as routinely as "fuckinay  shitcan  buttcan  stockade one's bunk
>> latrine  (un-)ass  KP  personal weapon  bitch box (a form of outdoor
>> pulpit at Fort Leonard Wood; a barracks intercom, elsewhere)" and
>> other examples of military jargon.
> When I looked a few years ago, I found  "couldn't care less" in print
> from 1944 and "could care less" from 1955:
> ---
> 'Danger List' by Christianna Brand
> Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1944, p. 18
> "I couldn't care less, darling," said Frederica who, being on duty in
> the ward, could not go to the party.
> ---
> This Morning . . . With Shirley Povich
> Washington Post, Sep 25, 1955, p. C1
> The National League clubs have always shied from pitching left-handers
> against the Dodgers, but Casey Stengel could care less about the
> Dodgers' reputation for beating southpaws.
> ---
> These can no doubt be antedated with current database resources. But
> the "could care less" variant was likely still a novelty for most
> speakers in the late '50s.
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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