25 July 2008

Couldn’t care less

I was always been interested in watching The West Wing, but never seemed to find the time while it was showing on TV. Fortunately, a friend recently lent me the season one DVDs, so I’ve been catching up. It’s a great show.

The dialogue is one of the things the show was recognised for. They must have had some amazing screenwriters. But what has bugged me in a couple of episodes in season one is the use of the phrase “could care less”. Specifically, it’s used by the character Toby Ziegler, the fictional communications director and speechwriter.

This butchering of the phrase annoys me a lot. The correct usage is “couldn’t care less”. Used correctly, it means literally that you could not care less, meaning you don’t care about something at all. Using the butchered version, “could care less”, sounds like it means the opposite, but when you think about it doesn’t actually make any sense. You could care less? That must mean you care some amount, right?

So that there’s no ambiguity, here’s some sample dialogue for American screenwriters:

Character 1: What do you think about issue X?

Character 2: I couldn’t care less.

Hopefully we can clean up this mess before there’s another cleverly written show that makes the same amateur mistake.