Posted by Smokey Stover on November 12, 2003
People have suggested (Rude Boy in this Forum's Archive, for instance) that "I could care less!" is a mistake for "I couldn't care less," which it contradicts. Perhaps not. Bubble-gum English is different. The movie "Valley Girl" tried amusingly to capture the vocabulary and flavor of Valley-speak, the language of teenaged girls in the San Fernando Valley, who spoke in a sort of coded version of English (while teenaged boys prefer not to talk at all). The movie "Clueless" also dealt with teen-speak, and made "As if!" a sort of by-word. It apparently means "As if that could be true!" (said skeptically). I believe this sort of ellipsis explains "I could care less!" Just preface it with "As if" or "As though" or "Like." In this case, "like" serves as a conjunction (horrors!) rather than as the deplorable teen punctuation in which every clause begins with "like." Of course, the teen misuse of "like" is a venial sin compared to its misuse by grownups who should know better, such as those responsible for TV news and commentary, and for contributions to intellectual magazines like "Harper's" and "The Atlantic," where expressions like internecine, fortuitous, beg the question and a raft of others are routinely misused. Incidentally, if you'd like to hear young ladies REALLY talking to each other in code, watch the movie "Slums of Beverly Hills" . And that's fer sher.