could care less

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

An alteration of couldn’t care less (which is first attested slightly earlier), either:[1]

  • by deliberate irony, or
  • by erroneous hyponegation, perhaps influenced by forms such as “as if I could care less”, “no one could care less”, and “to know little (or nothing) and care less”.

Pronunciation[edit]

Verb[edit]

could care less

  1. (US, sometimes proscribed) To not care at all; to have no concern or interest; to be apathetic.
    Synonyms: couldn't care less, not give a tinker's cuss, not give a tinker's damn
    • 1967, American Cooperation, Washington, D.C.: American Institute of Cooperation, ISSN 0065-793X, OCLC 1082975872, page 235:
      Farmers knew that dead fish made plants go better. They could care less about why that happened. Scientists could not sleep until they found out why.
    • 1995 October 10, Thomas McGann, witness, Trademark Counterfeiting: Hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, One Hundred Fourth Congress, First Session on S. 1136: A Bill to Control and Prevent Commercial Counterfeiting, and for Other Purposes [] (Serial No. J-104-49), Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, published 1997, OCLC 1097533781, page 33:
      We do work [...] to develop some strength and testing standards so that the industry can be assured that safe products are being produced. The person who is doing a knockoff could care less about that, and so they will just produce the product with virtually no field or laboratory testing and ship it out.
    • 1999 June 23, Christopher Shays, Subcommittee Chairman, Combating Terrorism: Role of the National Guard Response Teams: Hearing before the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations of the Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives, One Hundred Sixth Congress, First Session [] (Serial No. 106-32), Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, OCLC 46357624, page 64:
      As someone who lives 30 miles away as the crow flies [...] from New York City, I could care less that New York City or New York State has a sense of jurisdiction. I would want to know whoever is most capable would be able to step in without any jurisdictional battle.
    • 2003, Donna Hill, If I Could (Dafina Books), New York, N.Y.: Kensington Publishing, →ISBN, page 58:
      Maybe it wasn't only time to move away from a job that was killing her spirit, but from people who could care less about her as a person, who saw her only as the good girl from next door, the one who would never do anything to upset anyone, who totally underestimated her.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Some consider this expression a malapropism because the literal meaning of this version is the opposite of the intended meaning.[2]
  • Others consider it acceptable because it is widespread and because omission of -n't is an instance of Jespersen’s Cycle, a linguistic process attested elsewhere in English and in other languages.[3]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Laurence R[obert] Horn (2009) , “Hypernegation, Hyponegation, and Parole Violations”, in Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society[1], volume 35, issue 1, Berkeley, Calif.: Berkeley Linguistics Society, DOI:10.3765/bls.v35i1.3628, ISSN 0363-2946, OCLC 1101342195, archived from the original on 17 June 2019, page 416.
  2. ^ Paul Brians (2003) Common Errors in English Usage, Wilsonville, Or.: William, James & Co., →ISBN, page 49.
  3. ^ Arika Okrent (14 April 2014) , “Lexicon Valley: In Defense of I Could Care Less”, in Slate[2], New York, N.Y.: The Slate Group, ISSN 1090-6584, OCLC 610473650, archived from the original on 7 February 2020.

Further reading[edit]