'Put your best face forward' / 'I could care less'

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Feb 3 18:22:23 UTC 2006

I've never heard or read "best face forward" till now, Deo gratias.
However, I first heard "I could care less!" from the mouths of members
of the training cadre when I was in Army basic training in 1959. They
used it all the time. E.g. the sergeant in charge of teaching field
first aid opened his lecture by saying:

"You can pay attention or not. [Shouted:] I COULD CARE LESS! In
combat, the dead have to bury te dead, because the living don't have
time to fuck with them!"

However, the reaction of us trainees was the same as that of Damien's
BrE speakers: utterly ungrammatical.

But, once that I had graduated from basic, "I could care less" became
no more common in random speech than, e.g. the word "cadre."
Sometimes, it was used to mock the lifers, but that was about it. In
fact, in my experience, the phrase is still a rarity.


On 2/3/06, Damien Hall <halldj at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Damien Hall <halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      'Put your best face forward' / 'I could care less'
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Just a note to say that, at the moment, neither "Put your best face forward" nor
> "I could care less" is current in BrE.  We still talk about feet in the first
> case and, in the second, the version without the negative is typically
> nonsensical to a speaker of BrE.  If they have heard it at all, they will be
> vaguely aware that it's an American version of "I couldn't care less", but they
> will think that the Americans have got it wrong and aren't talking sense!
> ("Surely, if you could care less, then you *do* care to some extent, maybe even
> a lot?")  Of course, this analysis won't be new to members of this list -
> Americans have cited it to me as an acknowledgement that their own expression
> is strange - but I put it here for the record.
> Damien Hall
> University of Pennsylvania
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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