3

"What Do You Care What Other People Think?" is the title of a book by Richard Feynman.

The use of the first "what" sounds very unusual to me (a non-native speaker of English) since I've never seen the word "care" taking both a direct object ("what") and an indirect one ("what other people think").

Does the sentence has about the same meaning with "Why Do You Care What Other People Think?", which seems to be more common (e.g. 1, 2)?

Is the usage here really unusual?

3

There was a similar question five years ago: https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/11611/what-do-you-care

The answer from that question pointed out that "Why Do You Care?" is a genuine question while "What Do You Care?" is more of a dismissive way to talk to someone, saying they don't or shouldn't care about something.

In the case of the Feynman book, I think it is not fair to characterize it as dismissive. I could imagine those eight words being spoken in a positive way.

Here's an example of a friendly usage of that phrase: // "I'm worried that my classmates think I'm a loser," said Jim. Bob gave Jim a friendly look. "Why worry? What do you care what they think?" //

I agree it is a very unusual usage. I don't hear it often.

-1

Why do you care?

... is an actual question. The one who poses it might actually want to know why the matter in question seems to be bothering you.

What do you care?

... is a rhetorical question at best, similar to "What's it to you?" and "Do you really imagine you would somehow benefit from focusing on this matter? Yeah, right. Dream on," or simply "Forget it. Your pretending to care about it strikes me as atrociously boring and spectacularly stupid."

  • 2
    I'm confused by your final example of a rhetorical question, which doesn't seem to be a question at all. – Nuclear Wang Oct 11 '18 at 19:16
  • @NuclearWang: Rhetorical questions are not really questions. They're more like statements or halfhearted, dismissive assertions. – Ricky Oct 11 '18 at 19:18
  • 1
    No, rhetorical questions really are questions, even though they can (in rare cases) be punctuated by something other than a question mark. They're questions that don't expect an answer, but calling random statements that people don't need to respond to "rhetorical questions" is way off base. All your other examples are fine, but that last one is only rhetorical, and not a question. – Nuclear Wang Oct 12 '18 at 12:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.