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Paul Nicholson
Nashvegas TN
Digital Marketing guy for Captain D's. Hockey fan, photographer, and father of 2 awesome boys.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

couldn't care less

Your grammar lesson for today is...

You: I could care less.
Me: Really? Why do you care so much about this topic?
I am normally not a huge stickler for grammar and all that. I am not good enough at it myself to really complain. I would sound (and look) like a complete idiot if it wasn't for spell check. For instance, my use of the word goto. Those of us that learned BASIC in school growing up (for me it was 1st grade) learned that "goto" is a word. Spell check constantly reminds me that it is not, in fact, a word. But that hasn't stopped me in 20+ years of writing. To this day, i have to go back and put in a space at least 5-10 times every single day at work. Basically every time you see me say "go to" on my blog, i have had to do it there too. So, i am not really one to preach on rules of grammar and syntax.

But there are several pet peeves i have. This is one of them. The worst. And one that i have seen violated lately by several bloggers that i otherwise would regard as fairly intelligent writers.

Think about it.

"I could care less"
Do the math here. If you could care less, then that means you do care. In order to be able to care less, you have to care some to start with.

Of course, what people mean to say is "I couldn't care less". That is, i care as little as i possibly can.

Come on people.
Get your act together.

I really don't know why this bugs me so much, but boy it does.

And as another note on writing: Yes, i intentionally use a lowercase 'i' for my personal pronoun through all my blog posts, with the exception of the beginning of sentences. I think of it like all those artsy writers and poets that don't use punctuation unless it confuses words (he'll and hell). My shrink can tell you i don't have an inferiority complex, so it isn't about that.


lcreekmo said...

OK, one item here, though. Often, this phrase is used sarcastically. In that instance, it may be more correct to say, "I could care less," since you're implying with your sarcasm that the opposite is true.

I think that's part of why I could/couldn't care less is so confusing to use. Perhaps best to avoid the phrasing if you're a grammar stickler.

jonathan hickman said...

I disagree completely, lcreekmo. I don't think it's used sarcastically. Maybe it was at one point, but it's not anymore for most people.

If you said "oh, like I could care less," that would be sarcasm. But just saying "I could care less about this conversation" isn't sarcasm - certainly not in print.

And grammar sticklers wouldn't do any good avoiding using it. We know how to use it. It's hearing it used wrong that's painful, and we can hardly "avoid" hearing it.

Slartibartfast said...

Now, wait a minute! I have the correct usage at the post you linked (I swear, I didn't edit it)

I'm a stickler for these things too.

My biggest peeves are "there, their, they're", and "affect/effect" - only because I worked like heck in school to master them.

I think my clumsy phrasing may have thrown you off, but "Lintilla and I could care less" is exactly what I was trying to say.

Just defending my grammatical honor! :)

lcreekmo said...

See, I think that's the point Jon -- I think it often is meant sarcastically, you think it's not....so it's a dangerous phrase to call out.

jonathan hickman said...

Oh, I see what you're saying; you're saying we shouldn't call you out for misuse, because then you'll just say you were being sarcastic.


lcreekmo said...

Hey now! Hey now!

I rarely use the phrase -- could or couldn't -- myself, for two reasons: I'm trying not to be so sarcastic, and there are few things that I don't care about.


jonathan hickman said...


Gabriel said...

Wait... 'do the math'...?

Since when did English become Mathematics? Did I miss something? Grammar is neither about logic, nor is it about adding negative clauses. Oh, and if it were, then COULDN'T CARE LESS would be a DOUBLE NEGATIVE, because 'less' has a negative function in grammar. So, in your own words: do the math.

Regardless, however, it's idiomatic. If you say something to me, and I say to you "I could care less"... really, if you parsed my sentence, done some mathematical aerobics, and come to the conclusion that I actually care a lot, then you're either being deliberately pedantic, or you're not paying attention.