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

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Feb 3 21:17:10 UTC 2006

On 2/3/06, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> My big theory on "I could care less" is that it originated in the sarcastic form,
> "Like [i.e., "as if"]  I could care less."
>   Thanks to the phenomenon that I call "stupidity," the "like" fell away, perhaps
> because it was felt to be an extraneous syllable that detracted from the
> forcefulness of the utterance. Like, you know what I mean.
>   Am pretty certain that I used to use the "Like..." form in high school, shortly
> before my own IQ began to deteriorate.

But like, where are all the transitional examples of "like I could care less"?

The transition would've had to have occurred pretty early on -- thanks
to Proquest, we now have exx of "I could care less" from 1955 (and
"couldn't care less" from 1944).

And would you theorize that "like"-dropping was also responsible for
"I could give a damn/shit/fuck/rat's ass"?

--Ben Zimmer

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

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