There is a silent virus infecting Americans. It is sneaky. Its symptoms are so subtle, so commonplace, that you may not even realize the person next to you on the bus or beside you in class is affected. Or worse — that you are an unwitting carrier.
You have to pay close attention to catch it. It presents itself in four little words:
“I could care less.”
This unassuming sentence snakes its way out of the mouth of staunch professors, indifferent to your pleas; sorority girls, stood up by function dates; even prominent politicians, blaring on televisions throughout the dormitories. How, though, could such a small phrase be so destructive?
To prove its lethality, let us first examine its gross inaccuracy. It is typically invoked by an individual who is claiming to be apathetic toward the topic presented. It is a statement of utmost unconcern — at least, it is meant to be.
Claiming that you could care less implies that, relatively, there is a level of concern less than the level you currently maintain. That is, if you’re capable of caring less about something, you must care about it, at least a little bit.
Why, then, do so many of us fail to recognize that we should be stating we could not care less?
While it may seem to be a trivial grievance, I believe it is only indicative of a larger problem in our society — a failure to question what is commonplace.
Many of us commit this crime of grammar because we hear everyone from our politicians to our parents say it in passing. Often, we do not realize it is a mistake at all.
Similarly, bouts of “conventional wisdom” boasted by our contemporaries, political parties, instructors and peers go unquestioned, simply because they are repeated so often.
Take, for example, common misconceptions of cultures that lack validity. Being a Catholic in northern Mississippi has exposed me to countless remarks about Mary-worshiping and cannibalism, even when the catechism includes neither of these. And, outside of our safe state borders, I am labeled as backwards and ignorant simply because of my mailing address.
Or consider the potency false news stories can carry. Last year, posts went viral claiming Obama banned the Pledge of Allegiance and that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump. Millions of people shared these tales, and even when their falsity was exposed, they lingered, as people claimed there must always be fire in hazes of smoke.
Thus, as my pet peeve of a commonly misused phrase was exacerbated, I was led to consider what else we do not consider. We accept what is loudest and most frequent as true, even when there is no solid evidence to prove it so.
And our laziness in thought and speech has caused our minds to be inundated with falsehoods — many of which cause so much of the partisan rancor of today.
For those who say such a small slight in grammar is inconsequential — I truly could not care less.
Julia Grant is a freshman public policy leadership and journalism major from Gulfport.