Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
This one drives me batsh**. The change actually reverses the meaning of the phrase, and, from personal experience, 60% OF THE ENGLISH SPEAKING WORLD IS DOING THIS!!! (There is actually a specimen right here on your good website @ http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/english/78/blackmale/)
If I COULD care less about something, surely that means that I care a little, and it would be possible for me to care less. If I COULDN’T care less, it means that I don’t care at all, and it would be impossible for me to care less….
I completely agree with you. My friends and family are sick of me pointing this one out on almost a daily basis. Thank you for allowing me an outlet for my “fustrations”.
This is one of those things that has the grammar-policing world divided, with intelligent people and well-thought-out opinions on both sides, and if you want to keep your sanity you might do well to just let it go.
“Could care less” may have started out as a sloppy, unthinking version of “couldn’t care less”, but quite a few people today use it as a deliberately sarcastic reworking. They know perfectly well that the words mean the opposite of the sentiment. It’s not unlike saying “oh, everything’s just peachy” when things are going wrong.
Last edited by Brenda M. Shaw (2006-03-08 10:17:59)
One of my pet peeves. No matter how much some people try to justify it, “could care less” is completely and utterly wrong!! This usages seems to be confined to the US – I lived in the UK for 35 years before emigrating to the US and I never heard this mis-usage there.
We already have a long discussion thread on this phrase over at “Slips, Innovations, etc.” (a more appropriate venue for this issue)—including a too-brief cameo from renowned “could care less” expert John Lawler. Language Log has discussed this phrase and related ideas many times; if you go to their website and punch in “could care less” (in quotation marks), you pull up nearly two dozen posts. Prof. Lawler helpfully gives a link to one of them in his own post on this site.
People’s linguistic pet peeves tend to be centered on phrases that aren’t “completely and utterly wrong.” That’s the case here. Very good arguments can be mustered in defense of “could care less,” and that’s precisely what drives the haters of this idiom nuts: plenty of linguistically informed speakers of American English stubbornly go on using “could care less” in the face of withering scorn. And more power to them. I discourage this usage on those rare occasions when I encounter it in student papers. But in speech? I could care less. Language is a foreign country; they use pluses and minuses differently there.