I couldn't fail to disagree less

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I couldn't fail to disagree less

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Feb 06, 2008 1:44 pm UTC

What does it mean to say "I couldn't fail to disagree less"? Does it mean "I agree" or "I disagree"?

Discuss 8)
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Re: I couldn't fail to disagree less

Postby Kabann » Wed Feb 06, 2008 1:56 pm UTC

I couldn't (care) less = I care zero, I don't care.
Fail to disagree = agree
Hence, I coulnd't (fail to disagree) less = I couldn't (agree) less = I agree ZERO.
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Re: I couldn't fail to disagree less

Postby Dingbats » Wed Feb 06, 2008 2:26 pm UTC

In practice, it's meaningless, because no one could ever parse that in the speed of a normal conversation, and no one would seriously say something like that without just trying to be clever. In theory, I guess Kabann's right, but that's more maths than language.
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Re: I couldn't fail to disagree less

Postby Kabann » Wed Feb 06, 2008 2:28 pm UTC

Good point. But I like using parentheses in written language anyway. :)
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Re: I couldn't fail to disagree less

Postby madjo » Wed Feb 06, 2008 3:26 pm UTC

I couldn't fail to disagree less means that you succeed in disagreeing less. You can't disagree less, means that you di...*brain melts*
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Re: I couldn't fail to disagree less

Postby Robin S » Wed Feb 06, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

There are obviously two alternative ways to parse the statement:

"I (couldn't fail) to (disagree less)" - I had to disagree less (but not necessarily agree completely)
"I couldn't (fail to disagree) less" - I couldn't agree less

To me, the second is more natural, probably because there is only a single double negative cancelling out rather than two. Of course, the matter is academic since such a sentence would only be said with the purpose of being ambiguous.
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Re: I couldn't fail to disagree less

Postby Kabann » Wed Feb 06, 2008 3:46 pm UTC

madjo wrote:I couldn't fail to disagree less means that you succeed in disagreeing less. You can't disagree less, means that you di...*brain melts*


I knew, from the beginning of this journey, that it would come to this. The mysterious stranger implied there would be... discussion. We thought it meant something else. Anything but THAT, but we had been hoodwinked. Hoodwinkery such as that hadn't been seen in these lands since... but I digress.

Digression wasn't part of the deal.

Now, almost literally hours into this... discussion... I come to the thing I had most feared. The stranger's new semantic wizardry stymied me. At first I thought, no, it cannot be... it was so clear what the words foretold. But still, there was something enticing, almost seductive about the possibilities. Just a reordering of the thought process. How simple, and yet. Could it be?

I knew that I was born to disagree. I was trained to disagree - my bones tore and my muscles cracked with the pressure of what I had gone through, learning to disagree with a skill old Mac said was nearly competent.

But there was something else I knew, though I didn't dare let my mind stray that way at this precarious moment in time; the kitten would die if I didn't disagree... less. Maybe all the kittens.

I couldn't... fail. To disagree less. I had to try.
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Re: I couldn't fail to disagree less

Postby Matthias » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:18 pm UTC

Hey, you know what, in the event that it wasn't proven to be more or less as false as fallacious fabrications, wouldn't fail to be less than terrible? If this wasn't in forum games.
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Re: I couldn't fail to disagree less

Postby OfficiallyHaphazard » Wed Feb 06, 2008 9:55 pm UTC

Kabann wrote:
madjo wrote:I couldn't fail to disagree less means that you succeed in disagreeing less. You can't disagree less, means that you di...*brain melts*


I knew, from the beginning of this journey, that it would come to this. The mysterious stranger implied there would be... discussion. We thought it meant something else. Anything but THAT, but we had been hoodwinked. Hoodwinkery such as that hadn't been seen in these lands since... but I digress.

Digression wasn't part of the deal.

Now, almost literally hours into this... discussion... I come to the thing I had most feared. The stranger's new semantic wizardry stymied me. At first I thought, no, it cannot be... it was so clear what the words foretold. But still, there was something enticing, almost seductive about the possibilities. Just a reordering of the thought process. How simple, and yet. Could it be?

I knew that I was born to disagree. I was trained to disagree - my bones tore and my muscles cracked with the pressure of what I had gone through, learning to disagree with a skill old Mac said was nearly competent.

But there was something else I knew, though I didn't dare let my mind stray that way at this precarious moment in time; the kitten would die if I didn't disagree... less. Maybe all the kittens.

I couldn't... fail. To disagree less. I had to try.


I seriously couldn't disagree any less.
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Re: I couldn't fail to disagree less

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Feb 06, 2008 11:56 pm UTC

Hmm I think I like the idea of being a "mysterious stranger" who hoodwinked a forum. Thanks. :mrgreen:

And yes, I use this statement quite often in conversation. I, myself don't know precisely what it means, but it's a good way of being shamelessly ambiguous when you can't think of a reply for something. :P

My theory is as follows:

I couldn't agree more = I agree (I am at my maximum possible level of agreeingness)
=> I couldn't disagree less = I agree (I am at my minimum possible level of disagreeingness)
=> I couldn't fail to disagree less = I disagree (as above, with an extra negative tossed in (although, is "fail" a negative? (and yes, I know nested parentheses are bad)))
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Re: I couldn't fail to disagree less

Postby phlip » Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:08 am UTC

Robin S wrote:There are obviously two alternative ways to parse the statement:

"I (couldn't fail) to (disagree less)" - I had to disagree less (but not necessarily agree completely)
"I couldn't (fail to disagree) less" - I couldn't agree less

It took me ages to see why these have opposite results, when they've got the same number of negatives in there... but I think I've figured it out...

It's that "less" in there that's twisting the meaning:
"I couldn't x less" means x is at its minimum, and "I am xing less" means x is approaching its minimum... so both have a minimum x, but the latter states it in a positive way ("I am less") and the former in a negative way ("There is no less").
Replace "am" with "couldn't fail to" and you get the above quoted parsings.
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