could care less

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

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", "to know little/nothing and care less".

Verb[edit]

could care less

  1. (US, sometimes proscribed) to care not at all; to have no interest or concern; to be apathetic.
    • 1967, American Institute of Cooperation, American Cooperation[1]:
      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, Orrin Hatch (ed.), Trademark Counterfeiting: Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate[2]:
      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...
    • 1999, Christopher Shays, Combating Terrorism: Role of the National Guard Response Teams [3]
      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.
    • 2003, Donna Hill, If I Could, 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]

Synonyms[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Horn, Laurence R. "Hypernegation, hyponegation, and parole violations." Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society. Vol. 35. No. 1. 2009. p.416
  2. ^ Paul Brians, Common Errors in English Usage p.49 (2003: Franklin, Beedle)
  3. ^ Arika Okrent (14 April 2014) Lexicon Valley: "In Defense of I Could Care Less" Slate