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

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sat Feb 4 15:06:06 UTC 2006

A couple of recent exx. are findable at Google Book Search.  I suspect that newspapers may not be the best place to look for this construction, because the frequency of exx. of any form of "could(n't) care less" is likely to be low.


Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Benjamin Zimmer
Subject: Re: 'Put your best face forward' / 'I could care less'

On 2/3/06, Jonathan Lighter 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

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