Monday, July 02, 2007

You're Welcome

I've been noticing for a long while now that people have stopped saying, "You're welcome." For the most part it's become "no problem," the California-surfer-dude's reply meant, I would imagine, to reassure the person thanking you that it really was easy to do whatever was just asked or accomplished. But to me, it seems a hollow, unmannerly action to say, "no problem," when someone takes the time to thank you. It sort of renders the thank you even more obsolete if it truly took no effort on the part of the replier. What's even the point of thanking a person if all they're going to respond with is a curt, cheery "no problemo" in reply?

We were at a dinner party the other Friday night when I was mentioning that this been been bothering me for a while. I make every effort to say, "you're welcome," and have to catch myself mid-"no probl--" more often than not. Once I brought it up, Jill, our delightful hostess, said that she had read an article in the NY Times Magazine about the slow disappearance of "you're welcome." While William Safire's commentary is mainly about "pleasure" and the glaring appropriation of the word by US politicians, he does note that in the States, "thank you" is now the most common phrase to use once someone offers their own thanks: "no thank you... noooo, thank, please, thank you."

It could go on like this forever in a meaningless Saturday Night Live sketch kind of way. Safire suggests we should make every effort to say, "my pleasure," when someone thanks us, which I'll try to do as well. But in my own mannerly way, that lovely phrase will never be quite right either. I was brought up on "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome," and maybe for the first time in my life, my language is truly starting to show my age.


Alex Boyd said...

I tend to use "no worries," or "you're welcome," which I do agree is better, as long as the tone is friendly. What do you think is the proper reply to "Sorry?" Sad to say but I've more or less stopped saying sorry when I bump into people on the subway, because odds are nobody will say "That's OK," or anything. I make a point of always saying "That's OK," or "That's all right."

Deanna McFadden said...

An advice column at The Washington Post says to say, "your apology is appreciated," but that's a bit long for a subway bump. I think you're kind to say, "that's all right," or something of the like.

Anyone else got any ideas?

Thank you for your comment!

Deanna McFadden said...

But also, are we just getting ruder as a society in general? If so, it's a trend I do not relish. There are aspects of mannerly behaviour I'm terrible at (sending thank you notes for one) but I'm trying to be better. Somehow I keep thinking what's the point of the whole world is just going to be ruder and ruder.

Alex Boyd said...

Hmm, I think there's a general trend towards self-indulgence, and a kind of self-centered thinking (particularly in a society that puts so much emphasis on consuming) but I think there are people fighting it too. I agree, manners are more than a tradition, they indicate a belief in treating each other with dignity.

Having said that, I have a little trouble with "how are you," as a greeting, even between strangers, so commonly used now. I think it should be said sincerely, when you actually are OK to get an honest answer, not used as a greeting. I stick to good afternoon, etc. Maybe that's odd.


Francesca Thomas said...

I must be getting old too, and I see nothing wrong with saying "you're welcome". I am teaching my 5 year-old to say "you're welcome" when someone says "Thank you" to him.

As for the "how are you" Even if I am in a shi**y mood, I will still say fine thanks, because I know thats the expected answer. If I say anything else, we get an awkward pause, and I hate the awkwardness.

Anonymous said...

I am glad you posted this issue, I haven't really thought about it, but it does seem to be true. I personally like "You're welcome" and teach my girls to say it to. Very sad to me when something as simple, but polite as "you're welcome" starts to disappear. I am going to make a point to pay attention and listen around me and notice what I get from thank you.
Have a good week.

kathleen olmstead said...

I'm not so concerned about the language used as long as the sentiment is there. "No problem", "no worries", "it's nothing." They're all fine with me. What bothers me is saying nothing at all. That's what gets my goat. That's what gets my goat kicking mad. It's when someone cuts in front of me or bumps into me and doesn't say excuse that I get upset. That's what I don't understand, feeling old or not.

Melwyk said...

"You're welcome" seems like the proper response to me, also. "No problem" sounds like you're hinting, "Don't assume I went out of my way for you". Although it is so prevalent that I have to catch myself while saying it, too.

Jason said...

It's the thought that counts I always say.. No matter what their response is, aslong as it's "cheery," "grateful," or appealing to me, it's accepted as a formal apology..

It's just a matter of what mood you're in, the atmosphere, etc. that sets off the greeting..

"Thank you" (personally) is generic. I like creativity, when people say "no problemo," it makes me crack a "cheery" smile..