I faced this sentence actually:

One would be caught dead without one of these.

What does "would be caught dead" mean?

  • 1
    This is odd construction. Usually I would expect "One wouldn't be caught dead without one of these" to indicate that even if you were dead you wouldn't want to be without one. I wonder if this is like the BrE/AmE Couldn't care less / could care less. What is your Locale? Are you positive it was would ? – Smock Jul 15 '19 at 10:27
  • The meaning you said for roughly is ok. Actually it was in a film once a person was interesting sb else for buying a product. Yes i think so it was would – Ryan Jul 15 '19 at 10:40

The fixed phrase is wouldn't be caught dead [in circumstance].

It means "would not allow oneself to be seen in this circumstance, even if you had the excuse of being dead". For example, "She wouldn't be caught dead without her high heels and shades". It means she always wore high heels and shades when in public.

Because the phrase is used a lot, it sometimes loses the negation, and "would be caught dead" means the identical thing to "wouldn't be caught dead". (In the same way as "could care less" means the same as "couldn't care less".)

Also, as a form of exaggerated understatement (litotes), you will occasionally see "I would be caught dead in" to mean "Absolute opposite of wouldn't be caught dead in". For example, someone at Pinterest lists her favourites as "Dresses I would be caught dead in :)"

Your example might be either of these second forms: without context it's impossible to tell.

  • Do you know if the could/couldn't is a AmE/BrE thing? It's always been a bug-bear of mine, as they don't mean the same thing. – Smock Jul 15 '19 at 10:31
  • @Smock I believe AmE is always "wouldn't", "couldn't" etc. I think I've only really heard a fraction of BrE speakers drop the negation without intending any difference in meaning, and they also say "search with a tooth-comb" instead of "search with a fine-toothed comb". I suspect it's regional UK usage, but can't be sure. – jonathanjo Jul 15 '19 at 10:39
  • As a BrE native speaker I've never heard of searching with a tooth-comb - it just doesn't make sense. Also this seems to point to it being AmE that use could care less en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… You're answer is spot on though so +1 – Smock Jul 15 '19 at 10:43
  • 1
    @jonathanjo Fair enough! There's probably BrE speakers that use could care less too by osmosis (and watching American TV shows). It still grinds my gears though :) – Smock Jul 15 '19 at 10:56
  • 1
    Brits often say "seen dead", e.g. my father wouldn't be seen dead wearing brown shoes. – Michael Harvey Jul 15 '19 at 11:09

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.