I could care less

Why?   Thursday, August 19, 2004, 02:04 GMT
I often hear a lot of people say ''I could care less'' when they really mean ''I couldn't care less''. Why? That just sounds crazy.
Juan   Thursday, August 19, 2004, 02:10 GMT
Good question. I haven't heard it that often though. Jus occassionally.
Mi5 Mick   Thursday, August 19, 2004, 03:43 GMT
I would care more but I could care less.

LOL! Well someone had to make fun of it.
Andy Mad   Thursday, August 19, 2004, 10:58 GMT
they're just too lazy to make an effort and pronounce "couldn't", the fact of the matter is that "n't" part turns into a sort of a glottal stop.
Juan   Thursday, August 19, 2004, 13:22 GMT
Andy Mad sez:
<<they're just too lazy to make an effort and pronounce "couldn't", the fact of the matter is that "n't" part turns into a sort of a glottal stop.>>

I'll agree with this too. That's probably why! :-)
Sanja   Thursday, August 19, 2004, 17:33 GMT
I've seen a lot of people write "I could care less" as well.
Damian   Thursday, August 19, 2004, 18:51 GMT
"I could care less" means you care at least a little bit but it's possible to care just a wee bit less, if that's not too convoluted. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say "I could care less".

"I couldn't care less" means you simply don't care at all...it's not possible to be any more uncaring.

In ordinary speech....I don't give a damn. I don't give a toss, as we say here. Or: I don't give a sh-- it all depends how mean you are.
Tom   Thursday, August 19, 2004, 22:03 GMT
I read that "I could care less" is an example of irony.
Andy Mad   Thursday, August 19, 2004, 23:26 GMT
Tom, irony? In my dictionary of american idioms "I couldn't care less" is explained as "not care ar all" but after a few examples of its usage there's a remark - als heard increasingly as could care less (nonstandard in this form).

My persinal opinion is as I said it's justa matter of swalloing the n't part... t is almost always silent after n anyway...
Tom   Thursday, August 19, 2004, 23:46 GMT
Specifically, I read that in Steven Pinker's "The Language Instinct".
Random Chappie   Friday, August 20, 2004, 00:44 GMT
The French would say "je m'en fous!"
Sanja   Sunday, August 22, 2004, 17:03 GMT
I see a lot of people (native English speakers) use "I could care less" in written form when they mean "I couldn't care less". But I've noticed that usually Americans do that, British and Australians usually write "I couldn't care less".
mjd   Sunday, August 22, 2004, 17:32 GMT
An interesting article on the subject:

Marie   Sunday, August 22, 2004, 19:57 GMT
I use the "I couldn't care less" phrase also. I always thought using the phrase this way made sense because it shows the person has reached the point where s/he couldn't care any more less; the phrase with the word 'could' shows that there is still room for caring even less.

I used to wonder if I had the phrase all wrong when I'd READ (on the net for e.g.), "I COULD care less" and that maybe I was saying the phrase the wrong way all along, but I still said "I couldn't care less" because that makes sense to me. There are a lot of 'sayings' that make no sense at all.
CalifJim   Sunday, August 22, 2004, 20:22 GMT
"I could care less" really does mean the same thing as "I couldn't care less", except for the added irony, as mentioned. And the "ability" reading of "could" will not work here. We need the "possibility" reading, or we come to strange conclusions. Compare responses:

All you have to do is rob a couple of banks, and your money troubles will be over.

Factual response: I couldn't do that. (It is not possible for me to do that. Not: I don't have the ability to do that.)

Ironic response (Be sure to imagine the tone of voice here.): Rob banks? Oh, sure. No problem. I could do that. (The tone of voice suggests the conversation partner is a fool, or at least not helpful. Ironic responses are never to be taken literally.)

The underlying meaning of the ironic response can be phrased as an abbreviated form of:

There is no way I could do that. The "there is no way" is dropped.

although the following paraphrase preserves the sense of irony better:

(You talk as if) I could do that! (misguided belief that I could do that)

or Ask me if I could do that (and you know the answer is "no")


Sandra told me her daughter got first place in pretzel baking. I smiled and congratulated her, but I was thinking _______

Factual: I couldn't care less. (because it's impossible to care less than not at all)
Ironic: ( There's no way / As if / Ask me if ) I could care less. (because it's impossible to care less than not at all)

Extra factoid: Similar argumentation shows how "fat chance" means the same thing as "thin chance". And in this case there is no possibility whatsoever of dragging in the "lazy speakers" argument. :-)