Talk:could care less

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Surely not. Jooge 20:20, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

Yes, but not exactly - to say "I could care less" implies that I could, but not by much, making it effectively a synonym of "I could not care less." bd2412 T 20:32, 14 August 2006 (UTC)
Redefined to avoid being loopy. Pardon my pun. bd2412 T 20:39, 14 August 2006 (UTC)
  • This is very hard to find citations of use for; the first couple pages of books.google.com all point to usage guides prescribing against using this form of the cliché (while at the same time acknowledging that it is very common.) In informal writing and speech in America, the other synonymous cliché "couln't care less" is rare. Apparently, in formal writing, it is about a 50/50 split...accoding to some of the usage guides I peeked at. (Note to self: next time I need a quick, broad list of usage guides, repeat this search.) --Connel MacKenzie 08:15, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
  • I had always assumed it was New York Jewish influenced, and originally had a question mark - "I could care less?" SemperBlotto 08:19, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
Added cites. Jeffqyzt 00:58, 16 August 2006 (UTC)
I'd say we can call this "verified" now... bd2412 T 01:19, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

Pinker talks about this one in The Language Instinct, IIRC, but my copy isn't handy. —scs 12:47, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

Removed RfV. DAVilla 23:33, 18 August 2006 (UTC)

Malapropism[edit]

Although often used in error both in speech and print, this is a malapropism; however, an editor chose to edit war and remove this information in this edit. If one "could care less" it would mean that s/he cares quite a bit, but if one couldn't care less (the appropriate phrase) it would mean that s/he cares so little that it would be impossible to care any less. That is the precise definition of malapropism. Please restore the fact that this is a commonly used malapropism to this entry and use "Discussion" rather than edit warring. 71.66.97.228 23:58, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Whatever its origin, it's clearly not a malapropism, a mistaken substitution of one word for another to "absurdly inappropriate" effect. Snarkibartfast (talk) 12:30, 3 October 2015 (UTC)
Your source for this? Equinox 12:32, 3 October 2015 (UTC)
It simply doesn't match the definition of a malapropism. A malapropism is when you pick the wrong word(s) by mistake, e.g., "I resemble that remark!" (instead of "resent"). "Could care less" is a commonly used idiom, even though some people don't like it: people who use it aren't trying to say "couldn't care less" and accidentally getting it wrong, they are using the form they have heard. The comment should be removed, unless a strong, reputable source clearly supports it. Snarkibartfast (talk) 12:57, 3 October 2015 (UTC)
Also, even if it were a mistake, it wouldn't really be a typical malapropism, since that normally involves using a word you don't know very well, so that you get it confused with another word, or sincerely misunderstand its meaning, or have difficulty pronouncing it. None of that applies to "could"/"couldn't". Rather, it would be an example of a misnegation, where you lose track of how many negations you've used (in this case, "couldn't" and "less), so you end up saying the opposite of what you meant. However, again, this is certainly not why people are saying it now, and it's not a very convincing explanation of how this form of the expression arose in the first place, either. Snarkibartfast (talk) 13:11, 3 October 2015 (UTC)

Not at all clear that this is a malapropism[edit]

The Etymology section currently reads in full:

"Clipping of "couldn't care less", which is literally accurate (having no ability to care less). It is a malapropism, due to the literal meaning of this version being the opposite of the meaning."

But where I suspect this phrase originated — Brooklyn, New York — sarcasm is deeply embedded in how people speak. I grew up nearby and often heard the phrase used with sarcasm, in other words, deliberately meaning the opposite of the phrase's literal meaning. Just as when people say "That's just wonderful," when they mean the exact opposite.

By now, I suspect, users of this phrase are unlikely to have given much thought to its possibly sarcastic origins. But they know its place in the language: its ultimate meaning and its sarcastic connotations.

Conclusion: It may be entirely mistaken to believe this phrase is a malapropism — an error — when it very well may have arisen in the same way as "That's just wonderful" did.Daqu (talk) 17:26, 23 May 2014 (UTC)

Interesting idea, but whereas somebody might genuinely say that something was wonderful, nobody would inform you that they actually "could care less" about something than they do. For that reason it seems unlikely to me. Sarcasm doesn't just involve negating a phrase, but in saying a (normal, believable) phrase that isn't really meant. Equinox 19:22, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
Well, for what it's worth, I just learned by googling that Steven Pinker has the exact same take on the phrase as I (independently) do, in The Language Instinct and in a 1994 New Republic article. To quote him:
"A tin ear for stress and melody, and an obliviousness to the principles of discourse and rhetoric, are important tools of the trade for the language maven. Consider an alleged atrocity committed by today's youth: the expression I could care less. The teenagers are trying to express disdain, the adults note, in which case they should be saying I couldn't care less. If they could care less than they do, that means that they really do care, the opposite of what they are trying to say. But if these dudes would stop ragging on teenagers and scope out the construction, they would see that their argument is bogus. [Here PInker tries to illustrate typographically the difference in stresses and rising and falling tones, which I cannot reproduce in Wikipedia.] The melodies and stresses are completely different, and for a good reason. The second version is not illogical, it's sarcastic."
When this was written in the 1990s, it was a bit off to attribute the phrase to "today's youth", since the phrase was already widespread among kids in Brooklyn in the 1950s, and apparently became nationally widespread in the U.S. by the 1960s.)Daqu (talk) 17:26, 23 May 2014 (UTC)
P.S. Equinox, sorry I overlooked your point. But I'm not sure I agree with it. There are plenty of sarcastic phrases that immediately distinguish themselves from non-sarcastic speech, even ignoring intonation: "Sure, sure!", or "That's great, that's just great!","Oh, I certainly believe that!" and others.Daqu (talk) 17:55, 23 May 2014 (UTC)

Quotations[edit]

The first two quotations used in the article, found on Google Books and supposedly from 1936 and 1947, were misdated. The first was from a collection of The New Yorker, but had the wrong volume number: 12 instead of 82 (the quotation is from the November 13, 2016 issue). The publication info has since been updated on Google. The other was from the records of hearings of a congressional sub-committee. Here, Google doesn't provide the volume information, and seems to be using the year the sub-committee was formed, 1947, as the publication date. However, the congressman being quoted, Fred Schwengel, was not elected until 1955. From what I can make out of the cover, this particular volume is in fact from 1963. I have therefore removed both references. As far as I know, linguists and lexicographers have not been able to find print evidence of the expression any earlier than about 1960. Snarkibartfast (talk) 12:48, 3 October 2015 (UTC)

Pathetically bad article[edit]

This article is pathetically bad. Its definition is simply wrong. ("I could care less" does not translate in any sense as "I lacking in interest" or "I having apathy towards.")

And its claim that this is a malapropism is certainly not universally accepted, but instead remains debated among experts. As I mentioned earlier, Steven Pinker (in two places) states that the expression "I could care less" is sarcasm. So, the article should at least acknowledge that the malapropism theory is only one of two major points of view, rather than erroneously asserting it as established fact.