"I couldn’t care less." CORRECT!

It seems like people say I could care less, meaning that they couldn’t care less. This is incorrect. The phrase has become so common, it’s as if people have changed it without realizing exactly what they’re saying.

This handy graph shows exactly why the phrase should be I couldn’t care less, rather than I could care less.
Well said.

I couldn’t care less about a number of things. (Sports, in particular, come to mind.)

I couldn’t care more about spreading the cause of good grammar!
In other news, blogger now allows you to post video, so I plan to put on some video coverage of vandalizing grammar very soon!
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8 responses to “"I couldn’t care less." CORRECT!

  1. I think the misappropriation of “I could care less” was grown from sarcasm, but you’re right; it’s time to take back the proper usage.

  2. There’s been debate over this phrase in the linguistics community for years. Some scholars have presented fairly convincing evidence that “could care less” was originally used not in error, but as a sarcastic re-tooling of the original phrase.

    However, my guess is that most people who say “could care less” haven’t considered the sarcasm or irony. They’re just repeating what someone else said without even thinking about it… and it bugs the heck outta me!

    As far as I know, the “could” form appears more commonly than “couldn’t” in most modern US-English corpora. To me, this is not an example of evolving usage. It’s contagious laziness!

  3. I recognize that “I could care less” is incorrect on its own, but I think it works when used in conversation after the correct phrasing has been used.

    This is because of that sarcasm mentioned by Jeff Martin. But, again, this is only true in terms of a conversation’s context.

    Here’s an example:

    Let’s say two people encounter something which is clearly offensive to each of his or her sensibilities. Both people recognize this fact immediately, and one says, “I couldn’t care less about this clearly offensive entity.”

    To emphasize the point, the second person turns and says, “Oh, really? I could.” Obviously, this second person does not care about said entity, yet, to drive home that point, he or she uses the expression “I could care less” (or some variant) in order to show that his or her lack of care goes even beyond not caring at all.

    In conversations such as the one described above, I think the expression works, because it is an ironic saying, used to emphasize one’s lack of care by stating that one could care less than even a person who lacks any care whatsoever.

    But on its own, it is incorrect. It must be said in relation to the correct statement.

  4. I agree with Eric Jay, and when I started my comment, his was not posted yet. I just wanted to clarify so it does not look like I completely disregarded the previous comments before making my own (considering that I have criticized others about not reading comments in the past!). Anyone else think my paranoia is full-blown yet?

  5. I love the graph. Absolutely love it. :)

  6. Although “I could care less” is a daft thing to say, that doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you are understood. Language Log has discussed various other idioms that mean their opposite, e.g. “still unpacked”. They exist because the brain ignores their illogicality or ambiguity in the same way it does with any other idiom.

  7. You idiots that worship the English are foolish. The language changes in time and in other countries. Fuck the English and you uppity bastards……..

  8. I love the graph too….Thanks for the clarification.

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