I Could Or I Couldn’t Care Less

The first time I used the phrase “I couldn’t care less” here in the U.S. I got a strange look from my American companion.

“You mean ‘you could care less’,” she corrected me.

“No,” I said “I could NOT care less, meaning I don’t care about the outcome.”

“Oh, over here we say that we could care less,” she explained.



And so that got me to thinking whether I could or I couldn’t care less.  After examining the statement I decided to stick with the Irish expression.  It just makes more sense to my Irish mind.

You see, if you say you could care less, to me it means you still care more than a little about the situation, which in fact could mount up to an awful lot of concern.

By making the statement in the negative, like we do in Ireland, it means you could not care any less, which to me, means not caring at all.

Now don’t worry.  I won’t start trying to convince anyone my way of saying this expression is correct.  I fully accept it is an American colloquialism and has become generally accepted over time.

But on the other hand, if I annoy my American friends with my expressions of NOT caring less, because you do care less, I couldn’t care less.

And on that note, I am not sure if I could or I couldn’t care less whether you found this little post, about the subtleties of expressions between two different cultures, to be beneficial or not.



Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom


  1. Shirley Mills says:

    I hear people say that here in the midwest, but I totally agree with you. If you could care less then you still care. If you couldn’t care less then you don’t care at all.

    • Shirley – It really is a small, but subtle difference in language between Ireland and America, but it is amazing how many people over here have given me a funny look when I automatically exclaim “I couldn’t care less”. I don’t think I could change to “I could care less” at this stage, since the old Irish expression is so ingrained in my mind.
      All the best,

  2. The difference is between a statement and a question. Easy-peasy. Even the tonal delivery is quite different. Our statement, the Irish one, is lower on the back end. Bass lower, maybe even a full octave an-a-half lower that ‘care’. It of course is normal higher that those preceding. On the other hand, the American expression is delivered within a narrow range, ending on an up tick or level.
    Come to think on it. It’s one of the very few expressions that encapsulates the innate Irish politeness since most of us really feel that way about most things people witter on about but still listen far beyond when that expression should be delivered.

  3. I can’t remember ever using either expression! :-) But if I did, I think I would say “I couldn’t care less”, and I would be corrected by others, like always! See, you don’t have to be from Ireland to be corrected here!
    My husband asked for “water” after surgery and I had to translate it to “wa-der” for the nurse! Crazy!

    • Kay – How funny you had to translate the word ‘water’ for your husband’s nurse. I run into the same problem all the time at restaurants. Every time I ask a waiter or waitress for water to drink, they give me the most confused stare. I have taken to trying to say “wa-der” as best I can.
      Thanks for a good laugh this morning.

  4. Penny Wolf says:

    First off I love your blog!
    To comment on this writing there is always “I could give a sh_t”. Sorry if that is offensive to anyone.It
    means the same as I couldn’t care less and is very clear.

    • Penny – You definitely found the expression that cuts to the chase, and sums up the “care less” situation perfectly. Love it! Thanks for stopping by and checking out my ramblings. Stop by whenever you have a spare moment for some more of my Irish American banter.
      Best wishes,

  5. In thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve ever even said ‘I could care less’…it’s always been couldn’t! It just makes more sense.

  6. This post made me smile :) And now I can’t even remember which I say! :)

  7. Hi Mairead, guess your post hit a nerve, seeing all the responses. I couldn’t care less what any one says about how I speak. I mean I could care less what anyone says about how I speak, until I get to the point where I couldn’t care less. Being from Boston I’m going to speak my own way, as I paak my caa In Haavaad Yaad.

    • Brian – I couldn’t care less either about what anyone thinks about how I speak. The only problem is if I really get going in full force, with all my Irish sayings, nobody here in Kentucky knows what on earth I am talking about. I confess I love the Boston accent and how you all paak your caas in Haavaad Yaad.
      All the best,

  8. Stand pat, and the h*ll with whether or not another human can understand, it’s our differences that make us unique.

  9. I’m in Ky too and they’ve always said “couldn’t care less” in my family. But, then again, my Grandpa always said we had a lot of Irish blood in us. Maybe that’s why? I’ve heard lots of people say it the other way and it just never made that much sense to me.

  10. Mairead, you’re absolutely right of course and don’t start saying it the other way, whatever you do!
    I get the same blank look when I ask for water!!! I must try “wa-der” next time.

    • Don’t worry Mairead, I will keep on saying “couldn’t care less” until I am old and gray. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. But I do confess, changing my pronunciation of water to “wader” has worked wonders when ordering in restaurants. All the best,
      From one Mairead to another.

  11. Teah Petersen says:

    Honestly, in proper English, the phrase is “I couldn’t care less”. It’s just that most Americans don’t know, or don’t care, and have been taught incorrect English. I’m kind of a language and grammar snob. :) And I’ve always been in love with Ireland. I’m so glad that I stumbled upon your blog! :)

Speak Your Mind