Date: Thu, 6 Oct 1994 20:57:16 -0400


Subject: Positive "don't care to"

Gosh, I thought everyone KNEW. Throughout Southern Appalachia, the phrase

"don't care to" means (quite uniformly) either "don't mind" (neutral to

positive) or "want to" (quite positive). When we talk about this pattern

in my introductory linguistics courses, I can see the light dawn on the

part of non-Sppalachian speakers. They drop their mouths and begin to

say things like, "Oh, you mean that when my roommate last week said that

he didn't care to go to the movies and was puzzled when we went on

without him that he really meant ..."

(Sorry--make that "Appalachian" above)

My favorite story about the pattern involves Joe Trahern, head of the English

Dept. at the U of TN for 10 years. He is from Middle Tennessee, but I

thought he had been here long enough to know what the phrase means here.

But, one day he needed a secretary to work overtime, something we try not

to do. He walked into the secretarial pool and explained his plight,

then asked whether anyone wanted to volunteer to work overtime. Donna

looked up and said, "I don;t care to work late."

Joe said, "Oh, that's perpefctly all right. We'll just get someone else."

Donna: "But I really don't care to."

Joe: "That's really all right. I'm sure someone else will be able to."

After about the third response from Donna, Joe finally got the message

that the phrase had a different meaning from the one he was familiar

with and he got the situation straighened out.

I remember vividly the first time I saw the phrase used in that sense

in writing here (20 years ago). I taught the last Saturday class in the

college of Liberal Arts. Because the campus police would not let my

students park on the campus on football Saturdays, we didn't meet very

many times (and we were still on the quarter system then). I had

students keep journals ontheir reading ("Modern Grammar") and the first time

I took them up and read them, I read the sentence, "I don't care to work hard,

but ..." I remember being glad tat I knew the local meaning of that

phrase, because that was the first time I had encountered it in that sense

other than in a book about speech varieties (probably Vance Randolph's

Gallery of Ozark Folk Speech first).

I usually hear the phrase in the positive sense at least several times a

day. Variants include "don't mind to". I also hear thins like, "If you

don't care to," "If you don;t mind to, ..."