Saturday, January 15, 2011

frankly I could care less about this blog post; but not much

Like any aspiring Grammar Nazi, I pick and choose what to get all aerated and arsey about based on nothing more rational and empirical than my personal whims and prejudices. So while I find the inability to recognise the distinct meanings and correct usages of the following to be infuriating:
et tediously cetera, I on the other hand say meh and indeed feh to things like split infinitives. I even sympathise with those who are tempted to drop an apostrophe into a possessive "its" (though needless to say I never do it myself, goodness me no). I also accept the distinction between less and fewer but refuse to get too bothered about it, mainly as a sort of self-defence mechanism as I know it's something I get wrong myself quite frequently. I suppose I could rationalise my arbitrary picking and choosing of what to object to by distinguishing between rules that you just have to remember because THOSE ARE THE RULES and misuses where some nuance of meaning is actually in danger of being lost.

Here's an odd one, though, prompted by browsing through the comments on Orac's excellent Respectful Insolence blog the other day. Note the phrase "I could care less". Odd, isn't it? It seems to be exclusively an American usage (note the bonus "I could give a shit" at the end as well); we Brits would say "I couldn't care less", and clearly rightly so - no chance of any misidentification of word meanings here, everyone knows what all those words mean, and the American usage is clearly conveying the precise opposite of the intended meaning. Here's a few more examples. The stock excuse seems to be: it's sarcasm. To which I say: wait, let me get this straight - you, an American, are lecturing me, a Brit, about sarcasm? Well that seems entirely appropriate. Look, we bloody invented it, so have another burger and shut up. It's not sarcasm, it's just stupidity, so deal with it. Why is this one, specific, relatively harmless mis-usage so annoying? I really have no idea. But it bloody is, so cut it out.

Further scholarly analysis of the phenomenon can be found in this Boston Globe article, and, inevitable, at Language Log. Following on from the Mitchell & Webb sketch linked at the top here's David Mitchell on this exact subject.

1 comment:

The black rabbit said...

I'm not keen on people saying they're "feeling nauseous" when they feel queasy.
No you're not.
You're "feeling nauseated".