View Full Version : "I could care less" v "I couldn't care less"

2005-Nov-04, 08:25 AM
Curious to know which of these phrases one would use to indicate a lack of interest in something. I mentioned this elsewhere, but it seems a perfect candidate for a poll.

As an Aussie, I always use the latter.

What about you guys?

2005-Nov-04, 08:29 AM
The latter.

2005-Nov-04, 08:34 AM
I suspect it is an AMericanism, but I hear it all the time. It is born of ignorance and is really just a shortened form of the other.

2005-Nov-04, 08:42 AM
The latter.

There's a wee bit about that here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_Differences), as it happens.

2005-Nov-04, 08:47 AM
I say the latter too, but I don't think it's that an important issue. There are other situations where we say the opposite to mean the same thing, or say the same thing to mean the opposite.

For example, "quite a few" and "not a few" mean the same thing.

And if you say "I'm thrilled," it can be apparent depending on your tone of voice that you're not thrilled.

2005-Nov-04, 08:52 AM
"I could care less" always seems to me to be of the same ilk as the word irregardless.

So also the latter, but only because it's correct.

2005-Nov-04, 09:22 AM
I've never heard it spoken, how do people say "I could care less"? If the emphasis is on "could" (Chandler Bing style) then to my ear it would be sarcastic, but if the emphasis is on "less" then it would sound wrong to me.

2005-Nov-04, 09:23 AM
Neither phrase expresses "disinterest"; "I couldn't care less" expresses "uninterest" or, better, "lack of interest".

2005-Nov-04, 10:06 AM
Its good to see such a definitive response to this question, and I dip my hat to agingjb, I'm no English major so thanks for the correction.

In terms of looking for other references to this debate, I found this very interesting debate on the subject between an American & an Englishman on this very subject. Very interesting. Starts about page 5 and goes right through to the end (page 14). Chichan v (Steve as 41oo) Of course there are many other contributors to their debate, but these two debated it for over a month (and there are less posts per page on that forum than there are on this one)


Apparently `I could care less' originated as a statement dripping with sarcasm, only problem being these days, I believe that most people who use that term aren't attaching any sarcasm to the term.

2005-Nov-04, 11:48 AM
I would say the two phrases are pronounced (excepting the n't) and emphasized the same, and they mean the same thing. A young person being snide would be more likely to use could whereas if it was a matter of fact discussion about interests, he might use couldn't. But chances are most people use one or the other exclusively. There is no hidden meaning any more than "he don't know nothing" has extra meaning beyond "he doesn't know anything."

2005-Nov-04, 03:08 PM
I'm surprised that the vote is unanimous, but I've always said "couldn't", although I can't remember ever hearing anyone else saying it that way.

Another poll could be about which homonym is used when a person says "All told" or is it "All tolled".

2005-Nov-04, 05:19 PM
Whenever I hear someone say, "I could care less", I smile. Depending on my mood, I sometimes tell them, "I'm so glad you still have some capacity for caring". Then, they usually give me a strange look.

2005-Nov-04, 05:22 PM
I usually quip "I could care less, but not much."

2005-Nov-04, 07:22 PM
"I could care less, but it would take precise scientific instruments to measure it," is what I go for when I'm feeling really snippy. Other than that, while my mother says "I could care less," I haven't since the day probably twenty years ago when I stopped and thought about the phrase.

2005-Nov-04, 07:40 PM
I voted for the former, and here's why.

WAYYYYY back in my youth (you should be impressed that I can even remember back that far), when my friends or I would want to express the fact that we were not at all interested in the topic at hand, would use the phrase "as if I could care less!!!" Well, being adolescent (read: LAZY) we just shortened it to "I could care less!!!" At least we all knew what we ment.

I suppose that it could be argued that "I could care less" eventually became today's "whatever".

Just my two cents.

2005-Nov-04, 07:56 PM
I've never heard it spoken, how do people say "I could care less"? If the emphasis is on "could" (Chandler Bing style) then to my ear it would be sarcastic, but if the emphasis is on "less" then it would sound wrong to me.

I don't care enough about that to even try to care less. but watch what you say, don't be careless.

paulie jay
2005-Nov-05, 03:50 AM
"I couldn't care less". The other one makes no sense if it's being used in the same context.

2005-Nov-05, 04:39 AM
I use "I could could care less" when I am trying to be a little smart-allicky, but I do that very rarely (it seems a bit rude to me). I usually say "I really don't have a preference", "It really doesn't matter to me one way or the other", or simply "Thanks, but you decide".

2005-Nov-05, 06:42 AM
Unfortunately, all the pedantic attempts to correct the form in people who use it go right over their heads. Waste of time.

Around here we have a lot of folk who use the form "them are." I call them "them'res"

Them are good cookies.

Grates on me when I hear it, but impossible to fight.

2005-Nov-05, 07:08 AM
I could not care less, IE there is no way I could care less than this.

I could care less would mean there were worse things out there.

2005-Nov-05, 07:24 AM
I'm kicking myself now that I didn't make this a public poll, who are thoe 5 (at the moment) folks who say the former!

2005-Nov-05, 12:50 PM
Around here we have a lot of folk who use the form "them are." I call them "them'res"

Them are good cookies.

Grates on me when I hear it, but impossible to fight.

Yes, indeed. Actually, 500 years ago English speakers used to use the more proper "thou" and "thee," but unfortunately the uneducated masses started using the same form for the subject and object, ie. "you" and "you". So if you use "you" for both the subject and object, why is it wrong to use "them" for both subject and object instead of using "they" and "them"?

People also get upset when English speakers start neglecting to conjugate the verb for the third person singular, and start saying "He go to school." It sounds funny to me too, but if you think about it, verbs in most European languages have like six conjugations, and in English it's been simplified to two. So why is it OK to simplify it to two, but not to one?

2005-Nov-05, 06:58 PM
Lordy, I love pedants...

Of course, that may be because I grew up in a household of pedants.. "words have meanings. if you don't use them correctly, people will not understand you". If my sisters or I butchered the language, my parents made a point of misunderstanding.

I do the same to my kids (Godzilla and Mothra) - which might partly explain why they have a college - age vocabulary when the elder of the two is 13.
And to my employees. I'd do it to my customers if I wanted to go out of business...

Big Brother Dunk
2005-Nov-05, 07:26 PM
I'm in the I couldn't care less camp.

2005-Nov-05, 09:07 PM
My interpretation of "I could care less" has always been that it is meant sarcastically. Yeah, I could care less, but why bother?