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Re: Could care less = couldn't care less

Posted by Brian from Shawnee on November 16, 2005

In Reply to: Re: Could care less = couldn't care less posted by Anders on November 16, 2005

: : : : I heard Dr Phil (Frazier Crane on TV) use the expression "could care less" when in fact he means "couldn't care less". Although the two expressions are logical opposites, I quite often see them used interchangeably in Internet forums. My question is, if you find this to be an error, or if it is actually legitimate to say, as Dr Phil did: "She could care less about what you think" when you mean "she does not care (at all) what you think"?

: : : It's legitimate as long as your audience understands that you mean "couldn't care less" when you actually say the opposite. This is really the same as using a double negative like "We ain't got no bananas" to mean "We have no bananas". There are some who will point out the technical inaccuracy.

: : I find it to be an error, not just a technical inaccuracy. "I could care less" was discussed recently in a "pet peeves" thread on a forum for writers and editors. It was around in casual speech (not speech or writing where standard English is expected) before the Internet.

: Thank you for your comments. Ms Berg, I didn't mean to suggest that the expression was somehow particularly linked to the Internet, in terms of origin or otherwise. Clearly, the two expressions are phonetically related and the alternative must have come about as a spoken derivative. When I heard Dr Phil say this on TV today, I thought to myself: How can he talk like that and pass himself off as a doctor. But then I thought: Wait, this may be too harsh.

We can hope that Dr. Phil is consciously dumbing down his speech for his television audience. Perhaps he is avoiding big words and such, to avoid scaring off viewers whom he is legitimately trying to help. It's the same as a pediatrician wearing a smock with teddy bears on it.