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"I could care less" vs. "I couldn't care less"

The Question Ends Here


When one usually states "I could care less", they usually mean "I could not care less". [e.g. "I could care less about linguistics."]

In order for one to "care less" about a subject, they must first care about it somewhat. Saying "I could care less about ... " does indeed imply, nay dictate, that there is some degree of care.

I've put together a handy chart to help visualize...

The Caring Continuum. vertical chart shows amount of caring - 'zero' and 'couldn't care less' synonymous at the bottom

It can easily be seen that, in absolute terms, there is no caring at the zero marker. It is impossible to care less than that amount.

Let us use a different example...

  1. I could have less food.
  2. I couldn't have less food.

Which statement above means "I have at least some food", and which means "I don't have any food"?

A Recent Email Thread

Aug 16, 2006

mikerubin2@aol.com
Isn't the key to whether one could or could not care less whether one wants to be literal or sarcastic? :)

No. If one wants to be sarcastic, they would say "That's the most interesting thing ever!" or something else that would put their caring near the top of the continuum. Merely pulling their "level of caring" off of the absolute bottom doesn't give a sarcastic effect.

Consider this statement: "I need $130,000 to pay off the IRS."
Which of these is sarcastic?
1) "I don't have $130,000 either."
2) "Let me quick write you out a check from my enormous bank account."
3) "I'm not completely broke."

Using the principles from the sarcastic line, make up a sarcastic quote about your level of caring!

Thank you.

Aha! Now that is good sarcasm! It is plausible... and I'm not quite certain about its intent! The statement is clear cut, and may be taken in either way.

Well done!*
*(This statement's sarcasm level depends on the intent of your "Thank you." statement.)

This is fun! (This statement is not at all sarcastic. It is actually fun.)**
**Yes, I know both the 'fun' statement and the explanation could be construed as sarcastic... it is a mire; but it honestly is fun.

Actually, I was being sincere!


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