"could care less"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun May 24 20:45:26 UTC 2009

FWIW, the first person that I ever heard use "I could care less,"
after I had been in training perhaps four hours, was our black
Puerto-Rican barracks sergeant, who had a *very* thick accent. I
thought first that he merely lacked sufficient command of English to
realize that he had misspoken. But, within a day or so, it became
clear that *all* members of the cadre used the phrase minus the
negation hundreds of times a day each. By contrast, the phrase
practically doesn't occur "on civvy street" (AFAICR, this was a
WWII-ish expression, already obsolete by the time of my time) any more
often than Army "stockade" is correctly used in place of Navy "brig."
I once saw a reference in the NYT to the "brig" at Fort Leavenworth.
Would the NYT refer to Broadway as "Hollywood Boulevard"?!

Well, "brig" is at least an improvement over the once *very* popular
"guardhouse." Until I was actually on guard duty for the first time -
in the middle of a thunderstorm, scared shitless that my individual
weapon, muzzle pointed skyward at right shoulder, arms! would call
down the lightning from the clouds - I had no idea that a "guardhouse"
was literally a structure in which guards were housed - when not
actively engaged in taking charge of their posts and and all other
military property in view - and not a military jail or prison, for
which "stockade" is the proper term in military jargon.

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 Sun, May 24, 2009 at 11:36 AM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: "could care less"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On May 24, 2009, at 8:04 AM, i wrote:
>> Wilson's reports having first heard it used in the Army in the late
>> '50s, and also that none of the recruits in his training company had
>> heard it before (so that there was much discussion about in the
>> barracks). Â so it was new *for them* (though it became routine
>> "military jargon" for them). Â but of course others were using it --
>> after all, the uses they first heard came from *somewhere*.
> this is a partial mis-report (i should never rely on my memory).
> wilson said it was new to *the recruits*, but that for *seasoned
> soldiers*, it was routinely used as "military jargon".
> arnold
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