another "could(n't) care less" variation

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Apr 9 02:34:36 UTC 2010

At 4:15 PM -0400 4/8/10, victor steinbok wrote:
>  >From the Forbes profile of Glenn Beck,
>>  With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: "I could
>>give a flying crap about the political process."
>Reminds me of a friend using more blunt expression, "I could give two
>shits about it!" (quite common, of course, in both affirmative and
>negative form)
>This is not meant to be a *starting* point--the issue has been
>re-hashed so many times, there is probably little to add, at this
>point. This is simply another data-point.
>Of course, if anyone wants to start the discussion over, I am not
>going to stop them ;-)

Thanks for the datum, from someone who's been both a hasher and
rehasher. I've argued in print that squatitives ("He knows/doesn't
know (diddly-)squat about it") are analogous to "could(n't) care
less".  And I like to cite "(not) to give two shits" to demonstrate
that squatitives don't require minimal quantities.  What's neat in
the example you cite is indeed the blend of the two constructions,
which nicely supports their relatedness.  But I'm not sure I'd want
to call the form without negation (for "could care less", "give a
shit/flying fuck about", "know diddly-squat/jackshit about")
*positive*, unless you're just referring to surface form; they
represent what I like to call hyponegation.  One symptom of the
negative force of these constructions is their adeptness at licensing
polarity items that otherwise are largely restricted to negative
environments.  Some attested cases with "any" and "ever":

His parents, he said, were at the opera, the ballet, the symphony,
several nights a week, "while understanding dogshit about any of it."

That'll teach him to ever say anything degrading about girls in your presence.

I could care less about anyone else's sexual fantasy life

I could care less about ever having a No. 1 single

He knows squat about any scientific theory.

If she hasn't even played the game, then she knows squat about any of
the characters

I've got him hooked on college and pro basketball, he knows jack
about any of it

She knows jack about any minority experience


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