Sunday, 14 April 2013

Things I don't understand about the USA (linguistic)

I am down with the American language, I really am, or at least I try to be. I understand that pants are trousers, pantyhose are tights, fanny is something quite different, a jumper isn't a jumper but some kind of bizarre pinafore, all of these things. Moreover I know that you cannot let your cat out lest it is eaten by a coyote, there are not as many pavements as in the UK, and you can have your post collected by putting it in your own individual postbox and not going to the post office or a red postbox (I find that very odd),

I can crochet in American and I understand that a double crochet is a treble. I can even bake in American because I have little cups which I bought from Lakeland Plastics, even though I find it an incomprehensible system because the flour goes everywhere whereas if you use scales you can just pour everything in the same bowl and a cake appears eventually.
I am crocheting this in American. I am bilingual
However there is one thing I do not understand and I would like someone to explain it to me because whenever someone says it I think they are just wrong and I want to tell them, and, as we all know, that way misery lies.

When you are trying to convey that you do not care about something/ someone, in Britain you would say, I could not care less. This is because, you could not care less, because you already care absolutely nothing. That is the point. You cannot care less than nothing. You cannot care a negative amount (well perhaps you can but for the purposes of this argument we need to agree that you can't. Just agree with me. Thanks).

However, when I see US people say this online, possibly about the fact that Knitpicks does not ship to Scotland or something else, sometimes they say, I could care less. I have seen enough people say it to make me think it is an actual saying and not a mistake. But, if you could care less, that means you must care more than nothing! You must care a bit! You are saying, I care at least a bit and possibly a huge amount about this thing, as my language is utterly ambiguous even while I think I am conveying disapproval, disinterest, and possibly contempt!

How does this work? Am I wrong? Is there a level of meaning I have not been appreciating? Please tell me so that I do not ever get myself into pointless linguistic arguments and annoy people on the internet any more than I already do.

And one more video quickly (I have been looking for ideas for my routine).

I love this woman's work, I think she's fabulous. There are {clears throat, gathers blog readers in cross-legged posture around self} two different schools of pole dancing, I feel, one of which focuses more on the athletic side and one of which focuses on it as a sensual dance. I think she is more of the sensual dance type (although her pole tricks are just fantastic), which is interesting. I actually think that although it is arguable anyway that pole started in strip clubs (do you know, I wonder if I feel a thesis coming on), certainly strip clubs have been part of the evolution of it, and although there are (very sensibly) moves to get it away from that and give it a wider audience (because pole does not have to have anything at all to do with stripping, any more than, say, gymnastics or ballet do), I also think it's nice to acknowledge and transform (and not reject) the work of women who do it in a different context. I do.

I feel myself moving inexorably and possibly unhelpfully into post-feminist thinking here, so I shall go down and get a muesli bar, but, I also wanted to say, what I also love about this video is the music, by Lucinda Williams. I love it! I love it so much I downloaded the album (also on ITunes obvs) and listened to it on my way to Hot Yoga which was a particularly exciting class because it overran and two people fainted. I love her voice. (Dan - google UK tour dates, see where she is this summer, think on...)


Rachel said...

I speak a fair bit less American than you do, so I will be less than helpful here, but whenever I see, "Could care less," I want to correct it, too.

lollyknits said...

As an American, I apologize for our generalized butchering of the English language. I can't explain "I could care less" other than to say it's pure laziness. Perhaps it works as a sort of grammar-Karma foil to all the double-negatives in American English? Having used up all the negatives in "I ain't got no twinkies no more", there are none left over for a proper "I couldn't care less"?

FWIW, it's also probably somewhat regional. There are areas of the US where grammar is... er... less of a worry than other areas. (Was that diplomatic? It was meant to be diplomatic.)

Josie said...

As an American, this also irritates the living daylights out of me. I say it properly, and (annoyingly and pedantically) correct people when they get it wrong.

Also, as an American, I think that using grams and scales for baking is a far better method.

Gracey is not my name.... said...

I don't normally use that expression...but like a previous poster, it could be to laziness...much of our language is butchered because people don't want to use the full word...i.e...because = cuz....

and uhmmm..we don't really have coyotes where I am..but an occasional black bear has wandered through and I live in a city of about 60,000..

and I'm not sure if scales is what I'm actually thinking they are..but then I don't cook

Stitched Together said...

Wow, that woman is so STRONG! I bet you get covered in bruises doing pole dancing. I am even more in awe of you working on this art form than I was before.

Vivianne said...

But I do care a *lot* that Knitpicks don't ship international ....:-D

Erica said...

American here. You're correct, that is the incorrect form of that phrase. The CORRECT phrase is, "I could not care less" because, as you stated, you already don't care anything at all so it's not possible to care any less than that. One is apathetic to whatever the subject is, so to say that you "could care less" completely negates the need for the phrase because you care at least a little. I'm sorry that Americans can't speak their own language, it's a product of our horrible school systems inability to teach and use correct grammar and idioms.

*steps off soapbox*

J.G. said...

American here (too). Many of us couldn't care less about proper English. We just want to speak it quickly and get back to texting.

But it still drives some of us crazy to hear it mangled so badly. You aren't alone.