[Ads-l] antedating OED on "could care less"
bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 9 18:13:50 UTC 2021
Whew, I beat Garson to the punch by mere seconds!
Tue Mar 9 13:09:50 EST 2021
Tue Mar 9 13:10:11 EST 2021
On Tue, Mar 9, 2021 at 1:10 PM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
> Thanks for sharing an excellent citation, Pat, and a thoughtful
> analysis of the possible evolution of the construct.
> Back in 2018 Ben Zimmer antedated the OED when he posted a message
> with citations in September 1955 and January 1954.
> Below is an instance of "I could care less" with the desired sense (I
> think) in Ottawa, Canada in July 1948.
> Date: July 20, 1948
> Newspaper: The Evening Citizen (The Ottawa Citizen)
> Newspaper Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
> Article: Novel Race Between Citron and The Frost
> Author: W. T. Larmour (Evening Citizen Writer)
> Quote Page 3, Column 6
> Database: Newspapers.com
> [Begin excerpt]
> The idea is that because their frost comes earlier (if it does) the
> Gatineau goers are a more rugged, tougher breed than people who stick
> around in Ottawa. I could care less!
> [End excerpt]
> Garson O'Toole
> On Tue, Mar 9, 2021 at 12:39 PM Mailbox <mailbox at grammarphobia.com> wrote:
> > The OED's earliest sighting of "could care less" is from 1966, and it's
> labeled "U.S. colloquial phrase." But my husband and I have found evidence
> of it in Australia in 1949, clearly used in the modern sense of "could not
> care less." We found interdatings from earlier in the 60s as well, in
> editing writing.
> > We report this in an updated post on our blog:
> https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2012/12/more-about-caring-less.html <
> > A letter written in 1949, and entered into testimony in a divorce court
> in Perth in 1950, has at least five examples of "I could care less." The
> letter was excerpted two years later in a news article about the divorce
> (The Mirror, Perth, June 28, 1952).
> > We didn't include the link to the article, so here it is:
> > Some of the excerpts we quote:
> > "I did love you with all the passion and love that is possible of a man
> (if you can call me a man in your idea) and now I could care less." … "But
> at the present time I could care less." … "I don't care how you take it, I
> could care less." … "I'm writing how I feel and I could car [sic] less.
> Goodnight Zoe and goodbye if you wish it—I could care less."
> > We've also found "could not care less" from 1892 (OED has only the
> contracted form, from 1946).
> > Our post ventures to speculate about the development of "could care
> less." Rather than being ironic, it could be a natural extension of a
> literal construction in which a negative element ("no one," "none," "few,"
> "nobody,” conditional “if," etc.) appears before “could care less." We give
> examples, beginning in the 1860s, for British and American uses of this
> construction: "few men … could care less," "no man could care less," "no
> one could care less," "nobody could care less," "neither of them could care
> less," "I don’t believe they could care less," and so on.
> > As we note, it's not much of a jump from "nobody could care less" to
> "they could care less."
> > Pat O’Conner
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
More information about the Ads-l