I personally have a perverse interest in, and occasional difficulty with understanding, what seems to be (so far) largely a North American habit
It seems likely (to me) to have originated from a phonetic spelling of a formulation which, by its very nature, is likely to be spoken in a disengaged drawl:
"I could not care less" > "I couldn't care less" > "I couldn care less" > I could care less
(Strangely enough, the "L" in "could" seems to escape the phonetic spelling police drawl-net !)
Similarly with "I could give a damn" and with "me either" ...
(although I think the latter is more an affectation of style, because "me neither" is barely more difficult to say)
Other recent examples of omitted negation:
"2 yrs ago I was anchor
at Kiptopeke and went in for a swim.... could
get back aboard without wifes help ... I decided to do something about that"
Another CF poster (articulate and literate beyond any reasonable reproach):
having altruistically returned the anchor
on a moored boat whose owner he didn't know, after the mooring
pendant fouled it and flipped it off the bow roller, recently posted:
"I mentioned it to the guys at the local boat yard, and asked them to add a new pendant or notify the owner, but they seemed to care less
In this context, you might argue "less" was short for "less than not at all" or some such ... but the same explanation doesn't work for "I could care less"
The only sensible translation I can imagine is that it was short for "They seemed unable
to care less"
"My tax dollars should go to support other countries..." from a person who clearly thought the opposite, in fact, one might describe his views on the matter as forceful.
- - - -
This fashionable omission of negation, or Under
-negation, has spread, and (being sensitised) I now see it everywhere.
Stage II will presumably see it spread across the face of the planet (American vices being much more universal in their appeal than American virtues) -
I've already see occasional examples starting to appear here, downunder.
- - - -
There is also (and this is not driven by laziness, perhaps, again, by 'style')
as in "Unloosen"
("On any electric windlass
, whether it's vertical or horizontal, you can unloosen
the clutch--usually by using a winch
handle--and the anchor will free-fall")
and then there's chronic over-negation:
"You can't fail to not miss it" (four and counting !)
- - - - - - -
In the interests of fairness and balance, here's a seeming over-negation, which struck a jarring note when I first read it.
But when I think about it, it makes more sense than the accepted formulation:
Skip Allen's log, written while wining the '08 Transpac, reads:
<<There was no doubt that if (the) tiller pilot was lost
that we would round up and be at the mercy of these breaking waves, some of which I estimated to be in the vicinity of 25-35 feet, and as big as I hadn't
seen since the '79 Fastnet Race
storm on Imp