1576: "I Could Care Less"

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Rombobjörn » Fri Sep 11, 2015 10:38 am UTC

J L wrote:Seems Randall has a problem with language wise-guys.

speising wrote:I'm not sure what Randall wants to say here. "You never know how you're interpreted so you shouldn't even try to be understandable."?

h4rm0ny wrote:I get that Randall is mocking people for caring about this [...]

You seem to assume that a character's lines represent the author's opinion. I'm not so sure that's the case in this case. And if we make that assumption about the last two panels, then shouldn't we make the same assumption about the seventh panel?

The title text though: "I literally could care less." I think Randall might mean that – literally.

Flumble wrote:I literally couldn't care less. The universe is deterministic, so every point in history the seed of the universe led to the state I'm in now and this state alone, in which I care exactly the amount I can care.

So you deny quantum physics then?

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby NemeSys » Fri Sep 11, 2015 10:47 am UTC

I've always taken the American version to mean "I could care less...but I don't" i.e.: I don't - or couldn't - care less/don't care at all.

Just don't get me started on the misuse of 'of', which is spreading like the Black Death (and it's Black Death or the Plague, not the Black Plague...)

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby orthogon » Fri Sep 11, 2015 10:53 am UTC

The Moomin wrote:I've always liked "I couldn't give a rat's arse". It implies that there is a situation in which someone thinks the suitable response is to give someone's a rat's arse.
"You've saved Timmy from the well Lassie. Good boy. Here, have a rat's arse."

My thinking is that you can imagine saying "I couldn't give an X" where X is something of trivial value to you: you're saying that the situation or matter in question is worth less to you than that trivial object. Perhaps "couldn't give a fig" is an example of this. In the limit, you could choose a thing that has precisely zero value. But hold on: zero isn't the limit! You can take things further by using an object that actually has negative value to you, something you'd be glad to get rid of. Hence "I couldn't give a shit". You're saying that the matter isn't even worth the effort of giving an unpleasant and undesirable thing like a turd, even though you'd end up better off without it. It doesn't really bear close inspection, but as a kind of hyperbole it works. A rat's arse is just one of a range of evocative and unpleasant objects.

However, I suspect that this started with "couldn't give a damn", and underwent the usual substitution of sexual/bodily swearwords for religious ones. The reasoning is possibly similar, though: this thing isn't even worth the effort of damning it, it's simply unimportant.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby CharlieP » Fri Sep 11, 2015 10:57 am UTC

Edited because I hadn't read far enough to see that others had posted the same David Mitchell video. I will now catch up. Sorry.
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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby LockeZ » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:03 am UTC

sotanaht wrote:I'm reminded of how "Literally" literally doesn't mean "literally" anymore. It also makes the title text that much more confusing.

"Literally" has gained its colloquial meaning in exactly the same way as "totally" and "seriously," so I don't know why pedants care only about one of those words and not the other two. Or did they argue just as much back in the 80s that people were using "totally" wrong, and I totally was too young to notice?

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Eternal Density » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:12 am UTC

I could care less, but I can't be bothered putting in the effort.


As for literally, it initially served as a marker "this is not a metaphor even though it sounds like it." E.g. "We were literally making hay while the sun shone." But it grew to mean "It sounds like I'm kidding or exaggerating, but I'm not." As in "I literally just though of that!" But unfortunately, people ended up using it in that second sense in cases involving metaphors, which conflicts with the original purpose. This is unfortunate, because we need the original meaning.
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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby PFD Studio » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:18 am UTC

chenille wrote:
Steve the Pocket wrote:I've tried to unpack just how and why this expression devolved into its exact opposite

I had always taken "I could care less" to be the result of sarcasm, a contraction of say "as if I could care less" or "like I could care less". It seems more confusing to me that so many people suppose this phrase must be meant literally and so using it for the opposite can only be a failure of English, like how people used to get hung up on how "bad" could ever mean something good.


Exactly! That seems clear to me, and I'm always surprised when others try to interpret it to literally.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:21 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:No, I'm giving you tips on how the individual meanings of your words as arranged do not add up to the intended meaning of your complete expression in the probably-vain hope of encouraging you to help preserve, by your use and subsequent shaping of language, some of the coherence and learnability of the language, so that all that difficult vague gesturing with sounds and scribbles to try to make each other think and feel things can be done with a little tiny bit less difficulty than otherwise in the future.


Not even close to Faulknerian length your sentence is.

Slinches wrote:If caring were a quantitatively measurable positive scalar quantity, the value which mine would take in this regard is precisely zero.

Ok, but what if caring can go into the negative? Anti-caring could be something like deliberate character damage. What happens when a care-on and an anticare-on collide?
Last edited by cellocgw on Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:48 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby orthogon » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:25 am UTC

LockeZ wrote:
sotanaht wrote:I'm reminded of how "Literally" literally doesn't mean "literally" anymore. It also makes the title text that much more confusing.

"Literally" has gained its colloquial meaning in exactly the same way as "totally" and "seriously," so I don't know why pedants care only about one of those words and not the other two. Or did they argue just as much back in the 80s that people were using "totally" wrong, and I totally was too young to notice?

I'm sure they totally did, but as far as I'm aware those words haven't come to mean the exact opposite of what they used to mean, have they? They've possibly undergone a gradual expansion of meaning, gaining additional senses. Or do you have examples of "totally" used to mean "partly" or "seriously" to mean "flippantly, jokingly"?
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Lerkistan » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:29 am UTC

J L wrote:The mouseover reminded me of https://xkcd.com/725/ Seems Randall has a problem with language wise-guys.

Still, while sometimes the issues might seem petty, this dislike for exactitude surprises me.


Ah, but I think he meant it in the literal* sense - He actually cares for the correct way to say it, therefore he could, quite literally, care less, for instance by not caring at all.


* "literal" in the literal sense, of course, not meaning the opposite, as some people will use it

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby h4rm0ny » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:31 am UTC

Echo244 wrote:As noted in the forum rules, you need 5 posts that haven't been zapped from existence by the moderators before you can post links. Given you're posting here, I do suggest reading the rules.

(snip)



Now read and I'll add an apology for my earlier double-post which is also on the list of Do Nots. My enthusiasm does get the better of me sometimes! Thanks for the pointer. As to the rest of your post - I couldn't agree more.

orthogon wrote:
sotanaht wrote:[...]There are plenty of alternatives, including the simple "I don't care" and the more versatile "I don't give a ______". [...]

Oh, I meant to ask about that: am I right in thinking that "I could give a shit" is also in fairly common usage with a similarly counterliteral meaning?


I recall from my UK childhood some people using "Like I could give a shit" with both tone of voice and the 'like' indicating sarcasm. I've never heard the 'like' get dropped with time, instead I've simply not heard the phrase in a long time. In any case, it was less common than "couldn't give a shit" in my experience. I could see "Like I could care less" theoretically being an ancestor of the American "I could care less" but it sounds pretty cumbersome to my ears. That said, it's actually more work to say "I could care less" than it is to say "I couldn't care less" because the hard consonant at the end of 'could' jars more with the opening of the following word 'care' than the 'unt' sound of 'couldn't'. At least if you pronounce your consonants clearly. Two hard consonants like 'du' and 'keh' require an audible pause between them to distinguish the sounds. 'Du' is made by flicking the tongue from the upper front of the mouth to the lower front of the mouth. 'Keh' is made by lowering the tongue from the upper middle of the mouth to the lower middle and an opening of the mouth. I.e. the end of the first word is in the wrong position to start the next and the audible distinction is not a clear one as stated, and thus the necessary pause. If you try to do 'du' and 'keh' together with no pause, e.g. 'duhkeh', it corrupts into 'duggah' due to the tongue positions. Whereas you can go 'tehkeh' very rapidly. The closing of the first word in this case is the natural opening position of the second.

Which is all a very long way of saying that the phrase "I could care less" actually even sounds harder to say to my ears and thus even less sensible. I just gave the long explanation above because we get used to the way we say things and it's hard to see them objectively afterwards and I wanted to head off any "but this sounds more natural to me," resulting from what we're simply used to.

Anyway, I suspect Randall is pitching this to the wrong crowd with this one. We have a heavy preponderance here of [engineers | scientists] AND lovers of language here (often the same people). Both incline one to doing things the way they want or what is perceived as most correct or authentic, not simply the way that is most common.

Rombobjörn wrote:
J L wrote:Seems Randall has a problem with language wise-guys.

speising wrote:I'm not sure what Randall wants to say here. "You never know how you're interpreted so you shouldn't even try to be understandable."?

h4rm0ny wrote:I get that Randall is mocking people for caring about this [...]

You seem to assume that a character's lines represent the author's opinion. I'm not so sure that's the case in this case. And if we make that assumption about the last two panels, then shouldn't we make the same assumption about the seventh panel?


I don't assume that a character must be the voice of the author, per se. But I tend to presume that a barbed comic is aimed in accord with the author's views, lacking good reason to think otherwise. There are two characters in the comic, after all, and either or neither or both could theoretically reflect an author's views. However if the comic itself presents a criticism of some group of people, it is unlikely that the author is not critical of those people. Unless the criticism is obviously absurd, in which case it is typically lampooning those who make such criticisms.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby musthavebeenmykarma » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:38 am UTC

[I'm] Not sure I understand the prescriptivist backlash on this one. [It] Seems to me Megan's got that base covered:

You've corrected my words/spelling/grammar.

Did you understand me in the first place?

No -> Great! Thank you for making the world a little less lonely, I will clarify.
Yes -> Then you are being pedantic, or you aren't trying to understand me fully, so I could[n't] care less.
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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Lerkistan » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:41 am UTC

h4rm0ny wrote:Now read and I'll add an apology for my earlier double-post which is also on the list of Do Nots. My enthusiasm does get the better of me sometimes! Thanks for the pointer. As to the rest of your post - I couldn't agree more.


Or "I could agree more", as Megan might say :wink:

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby da Doctah » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:44 am UTC

orthogon wrote:Oh, I meant to ask about that: am I right in thinking that "I could give a s**t" is also in fairly common usage with a similarly counterliteral meaning?


Not only that, but since "I know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you're completely ignorant of the subject, you'd think that "I don't know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you do have some expertise.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Welcome to the Wonderful World Of Real World English.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Lerkistan » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:46 am UTC

da Doctah wrote:
orthogon wrote:Oh, I meant to ask about that: am I right in thinking that "I could give a s**t" is also in fairly common usage with a similarly counterliteral meaning?


Not only that, but since "I know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you're completely ignorant of the subject, you'd think that "I don't know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you do have some expertise.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Welcome to the Wonderful World Of Real World English.


Ah, but "shit", meaning "little" in this context, makes sense either way - "I know little about it" and "I don't even know a little about it" carries quite the same meaning.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:47 am UTC

squonk wrote:I'm sorry, but this explanation literally does not cut the chirping mustard.


FTFY :twisted:
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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Echo244 » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:52 am UTC

h4rm0ny wrote:Now read and I'll add an apology for my earlier double-post which is also on the list of Do Nots. My enthusiasm does get the better of me sometimes! Thanks for the pointer. As to the rest of your post - I couldn't agree more.


No worries, it just makes things easier on the mods and explains the whole can't-post-links restrictions. ;-D

musthavebeenmykarma wrote:Did you understand me in the first place?

No -> Great! Thank you for making the world a little less lonely, I will clarify.


The problem with this case is that "Did you understand me in the first place?" doesn't ask whether the understanding the listener has of "could care less" is of this as a phrase with a specified meaning (care=0) or if they've derived its meaning from the conjunction of words (care>0). So if someone reads "could care less", reaches the understanding the care>0, and believes the communication to be successful, they answer "Yes, I understood".

Also, "you aren't trying to understand me fully" is loading the fault onto the listener. If you care about communicating with people, then make it easier on them rather than blaming them.
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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Eternal Density » Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:58 am UTC

NemeSys wrote:I've always taken the American version to mean "I could care less...but I don't" i.e.: I don't - or couldn't - care less/don't care at all.

Just don't get me started on the misuse of 'of', which is spreading like the Black Death (and it's Black Death or the Plague, not the Black Plague...)
You mean when people don't understand that 've is a contraction of have? Yeah that's pretty bad. Also, people writing then instead of than. Highly irksome.
orthogon wrote:
LockeZ wrote:
sotanaht wrote:I'm reminded of how "Literally" literally doesn't mean "literally" anymore. It also makes the title text that much more confusing.

"Literally" has gained its colloquial meaning in exactly the same way as "totally" and "seriously," so I don't know why pedants care only about one of those words and not the other two. Or did they argue just as much back in the 80s that people were using "totally" wrong, and I totally was too young to notice?

I'm sure they totally did, but as far as I'm aware those words haven't come to mean the exact opposite of what they used to mean, have they? They've possibly undergone a gradual expansion of meaning, gaining additional senses. Or do you have examples of "totally" used to mean "partly" or "seriously" to mean "flippantly, jokingly"?
"Literally" isn't used as the exact opposite (where the original meaning was "This looks like a nonliteral statement but is actually literal.", afaik. Sure, it's used in non-literal situations, which is unfortunate. But it's not used to say "this thing which seems literal actually isn't literal". It now means "this isn't an exaggeration or fabrication". If you say "I literally jumped out of my socks", the new meaning is "I really was as surprised as this sounds." It's a different meaning, which sometimes conflicts, but isn't the exact opposite.
Or "That's literally the dumbest thing I ever heard." The "literally" is an intensifier of intended veracity. I don't defend the new meaning, because we still need the old meaning, and overloading the word leads to a reduction in clarity - which is annoying becuase the opposite of the original function of the word is to improve clarity.


But today the word "totally" is used sarcastically to mean "not at all". I suppose that could be done with literally as well. But sarcastic usage does not make an opposite definition of a word. People say "I love it when..." with extreme sarcasm sosmetimes, but that does not make love mean hate.

Sarcasm weirds language :P
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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby ElWanderer » Fri Sep 11, 2015 12:02 pm UTC

da Doctah wrote:
orthogon wrote:Oh, I meant to ask about that: am I right in thinking that "I could give a s**t" is also in fairly common usage with a similarly counterliteral meaning?


Not only that, but since "I know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you're completely ignorant of the subject, you'd think that "I don't know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you do have some expertise.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Welcome to the Wonderful World Of Real World English.

To add to the fun, you can also be regarded as someone who knows their shit, in other words an expert in your trade/profession/field. Which could be faecal matter, though it's unlikely.
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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Sir Ementaler » Fri Sep 11, 2015 12:04 pm UTC

Every once in a while I hear the defense that "I could care less" is in fact sarcasm. Let me tell you, if you use this defense, you presumably don't know how sarcasm works. To create a sarcastic version of a statement, you need to construct the opposite of that statement, but that doesn't always equal negating it. This is especially true for sentences that express possibility, ability, allowance, and necessity, generally by involving verbs such as "may", "might", "can", "could", "have to", "must", &c. Breaking the expression down, "I couldn't care less", means "I care as little as I possibly can". The opposite of that is "I care as much as I possibly can", which is equal to "I couldn't care more" but absolutely not the same meaning-wise as "I could care less". Compare: if a person tells you a story that bores you to death, would you rather sarcastically state "your story is very interesting, not boring at all" or "your story is more interesting than if it were extremely boring"? You do consider the story extremely boring, so the latter is also different from what you feel, but it is not sarcasm, because the implied "quite boring" or "moderately interesting", although different from "extremely boring", are not its opposite. In fact, rather than sarcasm, it sounds like a poor attempt at being polite, along the lines of "still a better love story than Twilight". That's pretty much what "I could care less" sounds like. It expresses a vague, implied moderate level of caring, and there's simply no place for vagueness or moderation in sarcasm.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby figbash » Fri Sep 11, 2015 12:09 pm UTC

I love how some of the posters who are insisting on this distinction on the grounds of clarity are the ones who write the most unreadable sentences.

Could the strong reaction this creates in some people be a symptom of anxiety about being expected to pick up on people's intended meanings? With all its potential layers and shadings? I think Randall's point is that this gets a whole lot harder than just riding over the could/couldn't care less distinction. Especially for the things that really matter, like relationships.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Flumble » Fri Sep 11, 2015 12:49 pm UTC

Rombobjörn wrote:
Flumble wrote:I literally couldn't care less. The universe is deterministic, so every point in history the seed of the universe led to the state I'm in now and this state alone, in which I care exactly the amount I can care.

So you deny quantum physics then?

Nothing says apparant randomness requires true randomness. Maybe one day we'll even find a deeper, underlying structure that relates two apparently uncorrelated measurements!

In all seriousness: I believe it's highly improbable that the universe is deterministic.
Luckily most processes are pretty stable anyway, so you can assume that your body stays in one piece most of the time, that the majority of people will vote for the biggest parties and that the ground beneath your feet doesn't suddenly become lava or appear inside your arteries.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby peregrine_crow » Fri Sep 11, 2015 1:10 pm UTC

musthavebeenmykarma wrote:I'm Not sure I understand the prescriptivist backlash on this one. It Seems to me Megan's got that base covered:

You've corrected my words/spelling/grammar.

Did you understand me in the first place?

No -> Great! Thank you for making the world a little less lonely, I will clarify.
Yes -> Then you are being pedantic, or you aren't trying to understand me fully, so I could[n't] care less.


I think the problem is that the question "Did you understand me in the first place?" is the wrong question to ask. The correct question is "Was it harder or easier to understand me than if I had said 'I couldn't care less'?". It doesn't matter that you were understood in the end, what matters is that you sacrificed clarity for pretty much no benefit.

Language evolves with usage and every time we add some weird counter-intuitive usage to the language we make it a tiny bit harder to be understood. Most of the time this isn't enough for the other person to fail to understand completely, but those tiny bits add up and in the end it does make it harder (particularly for non-native speakers) to grasp what is being said.
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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby orthogon » Fri Sep 11, 2015 1:20 pm UTC

peregrine_crow wrote:
musthavebeenmykarma wrote:I'm Not sure I understand the prescriptivist backlash on this one. It Seems to me Megan's got that base covered:

You've corrected my words/spelling/grammar.

Did you understand me in the first place?

No -> Great! Thank you for making the world a little less lonely, I will clarify.
Yes -> Then you are being pedantic, or you aren't trying to understand me fully, so I could[n't] care less.


I think the problem is that the question "Did you understand me in the first place?" is the wrong question to ask. The correct question is "Was it harder or easier to understand me than if I had said 'I couldn't care less'?". It doesn't matter that you were understood in the end, what matters is that you sacrificed clarity for pretty much no benefit.

Language evolves with usage and every time we add some weird counter-intuitive usage to the language we make it a tiny bit harder to be understood. Most of the time this isn't enough for the other person to fail to understand completely, but those tiny bits add up and in the end it does make it harder (particularly for non-native speakers) to grasp what is being said.

The view appears to be that the Robustness Principle should apply to meatbag communications too. In addition, some of the considerations in RFC3117 probably apply: issuing a warning of some kind in order to encourage non-compliant implementations to be fixed. That's basically what's going on in the comic.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Kalium_Puceon » Fri Sep 11, 2015 1:22 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:
Rombobjörn wrote:
Flumble wrote:I literally couldn't care less. The universe is deterministic, so every point in history the seed of the universe led to the state I'm in now and this state alone, in which I care exactly the amount I can care.

So you deny quantum physics then?

Nothing says apparant randomness requires true randomness. Maybe one day we'll even find a deeper, underlying structure that relates two apparently uncorrelated measurements!

In all seriousness: I believe it's highly improbable that the universe is deterministic.
Luckily most processes are pretty stable anyway, so you can assume that your body stays in one piece most of the time, that the majority of people will vote for the biggest parties and that the ground beneath your feet doesn't suddenly become lava or appear inside your arteries.


So I agree that the universe is most likely not deterministic, especially if you take into account the improbabilities of particles. If you can only toss a coin about whether a particle will be where you think it is or a little to the left when you look at it, the universe can't possibly be deterministic.

Although, while the universe we're in is probably not deterministic, if you take a many-worlds approach to wavefunction collapse, could you not say that the spaaaaaace holding the many variations on the universe you're in is deterministic still. But then can you still consider that outside view of your universe to be preset if the universe housing that outside view is also not preset?
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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby And Man » Fri Sep 11, 2015 1:42 pm UTC

chenille wrote:
Steve the Pocket wrote:I've tried to unpack just how and why this expression devolved into its exact opposite

I had always taken "I could care less" to be the result of sarcasm, a contraction of say "as if I could care less" or "like I could care less". It seems more confusing to me that so many people suppose this phrase must be meant literally and so using it for the opposite can only be a failure of English, like how people used to get hung up on how "bad" could ever mean something good.


Heh, that's what I came in to say. I've always held that same view, that the "as if" and "like" just eventually became implied and/or dropped off due to speaking casually/lazily (and I don't mean "lazily" in a negative way, just in the same manner that "should have" becomes "shoulda", "don't know" becomes "dunno", etc.; it's just easier to say in casual conversation. I personally have a habit of pronouncing "something" as "sump'n" nearly every time I say it).

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Whizbang » Fri Sep 11, 2015 1:44 pm UTC

I traveled here from the year 1982 to say this:

I could care less.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby a187 » Fri Sep 11, 2015 1:53 pm UTC

I wouldn't sweat it. I don't think anyone can reverse the trend and get everyone to say "I couldn't care less". Heck, I can point out another example. Did you know "head over heels" used to be "heals over head"? Head over heels makes no sense. If you're tumbling down a hill head over heels, well, then you're not tumbling at all. If you're in love with a girl/guy "heels over head", well, that makes sense sorta, right? But then we turned it into "head over heels", and that makes no sense if you think about it. But everyone gets the meaning of "head over heels" and that's the accepted form today.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Keyman » Fri Sep 11, 2015 2:08 pm UTC

ElWanderer wrote:
da Doctah wrote:
orthogon wrote:Oh, I meant to ask about that: am I right in thinking that "I could give a s**t" is also in fairly common usage with a similarly counterliteral meaning?


Not only that, but since "I know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you're completely ignorant of the subject, you'd think that "I don't know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you do have some expertise.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Welcome to the Wonderful World Of Real World English.

To add to the fun, you can also be regarded as someone who knows their shit, in other words an expert in your trade/profession/field. Which could be faecal matter, though it's unlikely.

So what you're telling me is "I know sh*t about {subject X}", is the opposite of "I know my sh*t about {subject X}"?
Nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. - A. Hamilton

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby orthogon » Fri Sep 11, 2015 2:27 pm UTC

Keyman wrote:
ElWanderer wrote:
da Doctah wrote:
orthogon wrote:Oh, I meant to ask about that: am I right in thinking that "I could give a s**t" is also in fairly common usage with a similarly counterliteral meaning?


Not only that, but since "I know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you're completely ignorant of the subject, you'd think that "I don't know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you do have some expertise.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Welcome to the Wonderful World Of Real World English.

To add to the fun, you can also be regarded as someone who knows their shit, in other words an expert in your trade/profession/field. Which could be faecal matter, though it's unlikely.

So what you're telling me is "I know sh*t about {subject X}", is the opposite of "I know my sh*t about {subject X}"?

Exactly so. Similarly, "X is the bollocks" is roughly the opposite of "X is bollocks".
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby slinches » Fri Sep 11, 2015 2:35 pm UTC

Since literally interpretable phrasing doesn't seems to matter to people who say "I could care less" with the intent of conveying the opposite, I'm going to reply to them with "Here, have this steaming pile of shit."

Also, I think caring is precisely representable as the absolute value of the position on the dislike-like scale. Therefore, caring must be positive or zero. If it could have negative values, it would just be another way to describe how much you like or dislike something.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Berzee » Fri Sep 11, 2015 2:58 pm UTC

Rombobjörn wrote:You seem to assume that a character's lines represent the author's opinion. I'm not so sure that's the case in this case.


When characters in this comic suddenly levitate and/or get an inverted color panel, I usually interpret this as a designation of true enlightenment. =P
(Though probably there are plenty of counterexamples in the archives).

For me this comic is a cautionary tale about how imprecise wording might just be the tip of a whole iceberg of insufferability. Be careful when correcting others lest you discover their darker rhetorical nature, and be careful when your brother-in-law tells you that you can't call the outbuilding on your property a Barn because you don't live in a rural area and so you only get to call it a Garage (even though you don't keep cars in it) or a Shed or at best a Shop...lest in your defense of the word Barn you discover that you were the iceberg all along. O_O For, uh, example.
Last edited by Berzee on Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:12 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby h4rm0ny » Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:02 pm UTC

ElWanderer wrote:
da Doctah wrote:
orthogon wrote:Oh, I meant to ask about that: am I right in thinking that "I could give a s**t" is also in fairly common usage with a similarly counterliteral meaning?


Not only that, but since "I know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you're completely ignorant of the subject, you'd think that "I don't know s**t about quantum mechanics" means you do have some expertise.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Welcome to the Wonderful World Of Real World English.

To add to the fun, you can also be regarded as someone who knows their shit, in other words an expert in your trade/profession/field. Which could be faecal matter, though it's unlikely.


The real qualifier here is that "shit" doesn't have a single meaning, it has multiple and is used primarily for emphasis. It's essentially the opposite of a euphemism. It's a substitute word that is highly flexible. So the "incompatibility" between "I don't know shit" and "I know my shit" is no incompatibility at all. "Shit" is simply substituting for different words in the different cases. The rule is that you can replace a word if a useable substitute can easily be guessed by the listener in order to add an emotive level to the sentence.

EDIT: Spliced my examples. But given the point of the comic seems to be that the burden is on the listener to find sense in what the speaker says, you should all not care about that, right? ;)
Last edited by h4rm0ny on Fri Sep 11, 2015 4:51 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Whizbang » Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:03 pm UTC

Shit is the new smurf

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby origimbo » Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:29 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:Nothing says apparant randomness requires true randomness. Maybe one day we'll even find a deeper, underlying structure that relates two apparently uncorrelated measurements!


Does "maybe" have any meaning in a deterministic universe?

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby alanbbent » Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:37 pm UTC

some poeple like linguistic precision more than other people. I once spent some time in a foreign country learning a foreign language with some other people. Some of us, like me, wanted to learn everything really well, including inflections, slang, local oddities, etc. We were especially interested in words that "all Americans say wrong" and words we'd hear from natives that we weren't good at using yet. But it caused a huge divide between the nit-picky linguists and the people who just wanted to learn enough to communicate, and not have to make their mouths do sounds not found in American English. It annoyed me when they would stumble through their phrases, with natives just barely understanding them, and then brag that they were fluent. They, in turn, were annoyed when we would point out things they were saying incorrectly. They would respond with "did he/she understand me? Then what need is there to correct me?"

I've learned not to correct people's language anymore, since it's as pointless as arguing Apple vs. Android. When people correct my grammar and word usage, it fascinates me and I immediately change how I speak. But that's because I enjoy that stuff. Other people loathe having to adhere to language rules, and they respond very negatively to people who enjoy it. I've damaged friendships by correcting language, especially in that other country.

So I agree that "the universe is so big and humans are so complex that we might as well not care at all about language" is a terrible argument. And "languages change, man. look it up" is even worse. A better one would be "oh, did I use that word wrong? Meh, I guess I really don't get as much pleasure as you do from using really precise language. Shrug." And no, I'm not trying to "show off how well I know" rules of language. If we are working to defuse a bomb, and I correct something you're doing, I'm not "showing off," I'm just really concerned about doing it correctly.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby commodorejohn » Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:52 pm UTC

Dear 2015 Randall:
misunderstood.png
"'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling."
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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby Flumble » Fri Sep 11, 2015 4:29 pm UTC

origimbo wrote:
Flumble wrote:Nothing says apparant randomness requires true randomness. Maybe one day we'll even find a deeper, underlying structure that relates two apparently uncorrelated measurements!


Does "maybe" have any meaning in a deterministic universe?

Just like the concept has a meaning in programming (you don't assume that it is [or the contrary] but you lay out the logic to handle both cases), the evaluation (of the universe in this case) will show whether we'll find an underlying deterministic structure. :)

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby DemonSlayer » Fri Sep 11, 2015 4:51 pm UTC

"Could" and "could not" are opposites. They do not both mean the same thing. We should do everything we can to correct people when they misuse those terms and remove it from everyday conversation. The same with people that misuse literally. Make the correction. Stamp it out of everyday conversation.

This stems from people being lazy about conversation, and not paying attention to the word "not" in a sentence. People answer positive and negative questions the same. "Didn't you just do that?" is answered the same as "Did you just do that?", by saying Yes. They mean "yes, I did that" in both cases, but do not pay attention to the way it was asked. It's simply a lazy habit and a desire to answer in the affirmative.

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Re: 1576: "I Could Care Less"

Postby commodorejohn » Fri Sep 11, 2015 4:52 pm UTC

Anyway it's definitely a useful construct in universes which have not yet been determined to be entirely deterministic.
"'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling."
- Bjarne Stroustrup
www.commodorejohn.com - in case you were wondering, which you probably weren't.


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