If You Could Care Less, Then Do
Mar 27, 2014
Perhaps it’s the English nerd in me, but this is one of my biggest pet peeves in terms of misuse of the English language. So many people speak the phrase “I could care less” in the wrong context, assuming it is correct because that is how they have heard it used in the past. But let’s take a closer look at this statement.
Most of the time, people should be stating “I couldn’t care less.” They use the phrase above to indicate that the degree to which they care is so small, that it could not possibly be any less, which is to say that they don’t care at all.
Let’s briefly look at this in math terms. Assume for a moment that you are a sports nut and the last thing that you care about in the world is reading a book. On a scale of 0 to 100, your level of caring about sports is around a 95 while your level of caring about reading a book is an absolute 0.
Sports = 95
Reading Book = 0
Now let’s assume that you still live in the world of elementary school math (or at least what I remember to be elementary math) and ignore negative numbers for the time being. (sorry to any elementary teachers out there if you are teaching your kids negatives numbers) If we ignore negative numbers, can you get any lower than 0? Of course not. So if 0 is you caring as little as possible about reading a book, you could NOT care any less on our 0 to 100 scale. With our two examples, the one thing that you COULD care less about is sports (and if it dominates 95% of the caring in your life, maybe you SHOULD care less, but well save that topic for another day).
If you’re reading this and realizing that you’ve been using this phrase incorrectly until now, I forgive you. Go ahead and forgive yourself too. Part of fixing the problem is admitting that you have one in the first place.
But please make sure you DO fix it. I couldn’t care MORE about you doing this. (See what I did there?) Every time you hear yourself start to say “I could care less,” think about my example above and make sure that’s what you mean. If it’s accurate, go for it. But if you really mean that you can’t care any less, then say that instead. Share your new found insight with your friends and once they see it, they’ll think you’re a genius…or maybe just an English nerd.