[Ads-l] antedating OED on "could care less"

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 10 03:04:38 UTC 2021

A vestige of the "I should worry" craze of the 1910s, which also doesn't mean what it literally says?
From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Tuesday, March 9, 2021 5:05:32 PM
Subject: Re: antedating OED on "could care less"

---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
Subject:      Re: antedating OED on "could care less"

Ben Zimmer wrote:
> Whew, I beat Garson to the punch by mere seconds!

Congratulations, Ben

Here is a pertinent citation in 1925 containing "young people . . .
could care less". This seems to fit the modern sense. (See the final
sentence.) An extended excerpt is included to show the context. On the
other hand, the crucial sentence could be repaired by replacing
"could" with "would". Perhaps this is simply an error. On the third
hand, an error may facilitate the emergence of a new usage.

Date: May 21, 1925
Newspaper: Aberdeen Press and Journal
Newspaper Location:
Article: SCOTS HEROINE MEMORIAL - Balmoral Stone for U.S. College
News Service: Reuter
Quote Page 7, Column 7
Database: British Newspaper Archive

[Begin excerpt]
Sir Esme Howard, the British Ambassador, made a speech at the laying
of the corner stone the Flora Macdonald College here this afternoon.
The stone is the gift of the Stuart Association of Scotland, and was
cut, with the permission of King George, from the Royal quarries at

Referring to the strange fact that Flora, when dwelling in North
Carolina at the outbreak of the American Revolution, declared herself
for the British monarch, although he could not be the true monarch of
her heart, and later returned to the land of her birth, the Ambassador
said that she must stand as a sort of patron saint of all lost causes.

He predicted that the young people growing up in that college under
the shadow of her name could care less for what the world called
success, and more for honour, loyalty, and chivalry.=E2=80=94Reuter.
[End excerpt]

Garson O'Toole

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

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list