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grammar thingie

Maybe when people say "I could care less about foo", instead of meaning "I couldn't care less about foo" they mean "I could care less about foo[, but it would be really hard.]"?

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( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
chriswicke
Mar. 31st, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC)
sadly, no
they don't mean that, but I like the sentiment.

People just got lazy and stopped thinking about the meaning of the phrase.

Although, I actually have used "I could care less" to mean that; most of the time I just mis-speak when I say it.
yakshaver
Mar. 31st, 2006 03:49 pm (UTC)
It's an idiomatic phrase in which literal meaning is reversed. Being a phrase may make it unique, though I doubt it; the reversal, while not common, is hardly unheard of. I'm not a linguist, so I don't claim to understand what the underlying mechanism is. But I studied under the intellectual heirs of good old fashioned Indo-European philologists, so I know it happens: consider the English words black, blanche, blank, and bleach, and the French word blanc, meaning "white", all from the same root. Or the two meanings of the verb sanction.
yakshaver
Mar. 31st, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC)
Which is, by the way, not to say that I sanction "I could care less." It annoys the hell out of me, and I personally always say "I couldn't care less" if that is what I in fact wish to convey. But English is what its speakers make of it; "I could care less" has become idiomatic, and there's no point trying to sanction people for using it.
forgotten_aria
Mar. 31st, 2006 04:05 pm (UTC)
I've always said "couldn't care less" I'm not sure I've heard it without the negative.
baronet
Mar. 31st, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
That's what I mean
When I say "I could care less", I often follow it up with "but it would be hard" or "in theory" or something like that.

I would easily believe that there was a longer phrase that has been shortened, losing the original "but".
awfief
Mar. 31st, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)
I say it when I'm pointing something out that I don't care about but others might. For instance,

"If you're sending a wedding invitation and the invitee doesn't know anyone, you should invite them 'and guest'. I could care less, but most people think it's rude."
awfief
Mar. 31st, 2006 04:52 pm (UTC)
Or, "I could care less, but you shouldn't split infinitives." If you're talking about grammar.
crs
Mar. 31st, 2006 05:07 pm (UTC)
Yes, I understand the common usage pattern.

The idiom just doesn't bear analysis without some kind of negating thingie.
jbsegal
Mar. 31st, 2006 05:02 pm (UTC)
Personally, my pedantic streak often has me replying to “I could care less” with “How much?” or similar.

As well, to “You can't have your cake and eat it, too”, I typically reply “Yes! You can! You just can't eat it and THEN have it.”

I wish people would think about what they're saying, even when spouting cliches.
crs
Mar. 31st, 2006 05:06 pm (UTC)
Well, in that case, once you've eaten your cake, you don't have it anymore.
chenoameg
Mar. 31st, 2006 06:00 pm (UTC)
It's a sarcastic idiom. So you say "I could care less", but you mean "I couldn't care less".

Like flammable & inflammable it's its own opposite.

Speaking of which -- notice the two spellings above. This has become my new pet peeve everyone -- there is a word spelled "its" and it's ok to use it when it's the right thing in its own place, ok? If you can't expand it to "it is" don't add the apostrophe.

As far as "I could care less" I just stopped using it because it was too confusing.
alierak
Mar. 31st, 2006 06:09 pm (UTC)
Well, if you're going to be apathetic about foo, why not be apathetic about grammar too while you're at it?
ilai
Mar. 31st, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC)
Eventually, a few hundred years from now, "I could care less" will become so widespread that grammarians will consider it correct.

Or it will die out and become a historical curiosity.

Or perhaps at some point people will say, "Hey, English doesn't come from Latin, we don't have to enforce alien grammatical logic from a dead language!" But I'm not holding my breath.
jcgbigler
Apr. 1st, 2006 12:59 am (UTC)
Maybe it means it would take effort to care less than I already do, and I'm too (a)pathetic to bother.

Or maybe not.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )