The Difference Between Disinterested and Uninterested

by Regina Kenney

Moving to London, I had the pleasant experience of being corrected on my grammar continuously.

I am in no way complaining. I would always rather be corrected than have someone silently wince as I bumble through sentences.

From misusing the word ‘nonplussed’ to hearing angry British rants on the phrase ‘I could care less,’ the U.K. is certainly a country that values proper use of its language.

One of the more fascinating corrections (and which I have since attempted to eradicate from my vocabulary) is the word ‘disinterested.’

Disinterested means you have no stake in the outcome. (i.e. “I am disinterested in whether Betty gets a blue or red dress because it has no effect on me.”)

Uninterested means you are not interested in the topic. (i.e. “I am uninterested in whether Betty gets a blue or red dress because I hate Betty and don’t want to hear about her goddamn wardrobe.“)

I have since Googled the definition of “Disinterested” finding that a secondary definition is in fact, “having or feeling no interest in something; uninterested.” But as a Brit told me, “That is only because people misuse it so often. The dictionary people have just gone, ‘Ah, screw it.’”

David Mitchell has a series of brilliant grammar rants on YouTube, including the one below that lays out the frustration of the phrase ‘Could Care Less.’

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