Could(n't) care less

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by John Connellan, Oct 19, 2015.

  1. John Connellan Valued Senior Member

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    Here in Ireland, I have always heard the phrase "couldn't care less" for as long as I remember. I notice in the states that you say "could care less". Can anyone explain this? Doesn't it make more sense to say "couldn't"?
     
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  3. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    yes
    and
    what's the difference between a bagpipe and an onion
     
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  5. John Connellan Valued Senior Member

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    No one cries when you chop up a bagpipe.
     
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  7. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    David Mitchell rocks.
     
  9. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    He does. Eyes are a little freaky.

    Sometimes that panelist, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about David Mitchell, he's got... lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eyes. When he starts takin' the piss outa ya, he barely seems to be livin'! Until he lands a good one and those black eyes roll over white t'wards the ceilin' and you hear that terrible high pitch laughin' and ye know it's directed at you.
     
  10. Kristoffer Giant Hyrax Valued Senior Member

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    Thanks for reminding me of Mitchell. Needed fun stuff that wasn't just my usual lineup.
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    To say "I could care less" is to use sarcasm, a common but (in my opinion) annoying and overused rhetorical device.

    This particular phrase is now so common that it is often used in writing, and even without the telltales that come with speech, everyone knows that it is to be interpreted as sarcasm.

    We overuse sarcasm over here. Another example, so common that it's sloshed over into written language: "Don't you just love it when [some terrible event occurs]?"

    There's a whole family of these sarcastic comments, such as "Wouldn't Donald Trump be a great President?"
     
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  12. John Connellan Valued Senior Member

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    I see. We also use the phrase in a sarcastic way as an emphatic exaggeration; "I couldn't care less", meaning (literally) the thing I care least about in the whole world right now!
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    But that is not sarcasm! It is a true statement: you literally could not care less about it because you already care as little about it as you can without actually forgetting it.
     
  14. John Connellan Valued Senior Member

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    Well no, an exaggeration is not the truth Fraggle Rocker! Let's say one of your friends said that someone thinks you're way out of order for doing something blah blah... You say, "I couldn't care less what he thinks". You're trying to get across that you don't care too much about it, but because it may have caused an emotional reaction in you, you exaggerate and say it is the thing you least care about in the world right now. There are of course many things that concern you less that what your friend think of you. This is what I meant.
     
  15. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    "I could care less" "but that would take some serious effort on my part over a subject in which I have zero interest."

    When using "I couldn't care less", it was never intended to indicate anything of a global scale. Again "I couldn't care less" (about this subject or your opinion/position on this subject). It was always localized.
     
  16. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    ''Could care less'' means there's still hope of caring less. lol

    ''Couldn't care less'' is when you really don't care at all. Not answering the person at all could achieve the same result.

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  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Thank you.

    Here I thought I was the only one in the world that saw the phrase as sarcasm.
     
  18. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Unless its sarcastic, in which case, it means the opposite.
     
  19. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    What do you mean?
     
  20. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Sarcasm is the act of saying the opposite of the truth, or of what you feel.

    Saying "Nice weather" during a hurricane is sarcasm.
    Or watching the scene where Superman catches Lois Lane without killing her, and saying "Sure, that's plausible." - is sarcasm.

    So, "I could care less." can be interpreted as sarcasm. Imagine someone saying it to you in a super-derogative tone, while rolling their eyes. "Yuh. I could probably care less if I really tried."
     
  21. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    I understand what sarcasm is, lol I'm just failing to see how it applies here when saying ''I could care less.''

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  22. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Because in the given examples, when they say "I could care less" they actually mean that they could not care less. I.e. That they do not care at all.

    Sure, if someone is asked "could you care more or less about someone else's needs than your own?" then the response "I could care less" is not said sarcastically, but that is not the idiom being discussed. Here they are considering the case where it means that they could not care less, but say "I could care less" - so in a sarcastic manner.
     
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  23. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    lol that makes sense, now! I'm going to try this IRL.

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