Jan Freeman of Throw Grammar from the Train recently explored the 50 years of debate over “could care less” and “couldn’t care less.” Regarding “could care less,” which is so frequently reviled by peevologists, she muses:
But whatever its sources—sarcasm, irony, Yiddish, or (as its detractors say) ignorance—“could care less” is snugly embedded in the American idiom. Yet the complaints keep rolling in.
Half a century, it’s true, is not excessively long in the world of usage disputes. This is one of the mysteries of peevology: Why do certain innovations annoy people, year after year, while other changes pass unnoticed? Why are some terms “skunked,” in the coinage of usage maven Bryan Garner—trapped awkwardly between the traditional usage and the emerging sense—for decades? Why do others shift and adapt, almost unremarked, right under our noses?
And check out this edition of David Mitchell’s Soap Box on the topic.
Stay with him and you’ll also get his thoughts on the phrase “holding down the fort.”