The expression “I could care less” is a bit of Yiddish sarcasm that causes frothing fury among the pedants. Dr. Boli has always wondered why, and he has decided at last to ask his readers.

Whether the expression is originally Yiddish or not, “I could care less” fits right into the stream of Jewish irony that doubtless began long before the Old Testament books were written and continues uninterrupted to the present day. Jesus of Nazareth was a prominent exponent of that sort of irony.

And the Pharisees said unto him, “Behold, these men with whom thou eatest and drinkest are publicans and sinners.” And Jesus said, “I could care less.” (Mark 53:48.)

“But that’s not what you mean,” say the pedants. “You mean that you could not care less. You are saying the opposite of what you mean!”

Yes, that is the point of sarcasm. Sarcasm, in the current use of the term, is irony with a steel-toed boot. One says the opposite of what one means for the purpose of kicking the subject in a sneering manner. It is a technique familiar to children of elementary-school age, so there is no reason why it should baffle college graduates.

One wonders how these pedants react to other well-known sarcastic expressions. How do they believe one should respond to them? “No, Ollie, it is not a nice mess I have gotten you into. It is a very distressing mess, and I am truly sorry.”

Or is “I could care less” uniquely offensive? Dr. Boli is asking all of you for your opinions.


  1. Kyle French says:

    Ah! If only our ironic interlocutors could put the emphasis on the right syllable: “I could care less…” Or, “If only I could care less!”

  2. This sounds like a job for Sarkastiko!

    Who, of course, could care less . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  3. “I could care less” leaves unspoken the obvious second half of the statement, “but it would be really, really difficult to care that little.” It is indeed a milder form of reprobation than “I couldn’t care less”, in much the same way that “you’re one of the biggest idiots on the internet” is milder than “you’re THE biggest idiot on the internet”.

  4. I always took it for a rhetorical question in Yiddish syntax: “I could care less?” Clearly not.

  5. RepubAnon says:

    Stan Laurel’s actual answer should have been more along the lines of: “No, you got yourself into that fine mess, Ollie.”

    I go along with Kyle French – it’s a cropped quote. The actual quote could be more like: “I could care less – if I were not my Father’s son. As it is, I care deeply.”

  6. Robert St. Agamemnon-Fargy says:

    I always took “I could care less” to mean something along the lines of “If I could care less I would, but I can’t, as I’m already caring the least I possibly can.” Hence, from a certain angle “I could care less” is actually worse than “I couldn’t care less,” because in the latter the nadir of caring has been ostensibly reached, while in the former, not so much. Or something.

    Of course the question then arises, can one imagine oneself caring less about a thing than one already does, even if one “couldn’t care less” about it? If so, then perhaps one really could care less.

    Where is St. Anselm when one needs him?

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