Monday, September 3, 2007

No Problem, No Thanks

I woke to the sounds of a voice saying "Hey Char, there's a problem with the car," (no rhyme intended) and the "...thump, thump, thump, thump" of a tire rhythmically making its way to shredsville. Yes, a blowout on I-95 at 1:20 am. That in itself is exciting enough, but the bigger issue was my surprise less than 12 hours later at being on the receiving end of a long lost customary response when one says, "Thank you." The young, hip clerk at the tire dealer offered, "You're welcome" after I profusely thanked him for the good service and the great price for the new tire. I did a double take and almost wanted him to repeat what he had said. I walked away smiling.

It probably doesn't bother anyone else, but I admit I have a pet peeve about the response, "No problem" when one says "Thanks" or "Thank you" or "I really appreciate it" or "Many thanks." You get the idea. It sounds like my appreciative comment for the gift I received, a guest's prompt arrival, the great food I ate, the compliment about my longer hair, or the help I got," started out as a problem. I want people to say, "YOU'RE WELCOME." Okay, so the word welcome doesn't exactly translate literally to anything as magnaminous as "It was my great pleasure," but, it does sound sincere and positive. Not like something was an issue. Am I behind the times? Anyone who would use the phrase, "behind the times" probably shouldn't ask that question. As I heard more and more people of all ages say, "No problem," it got me thinking about whether it was me who had an issue.

I was somewhat vindicated to read Wikipedia offering the following: The phrase "no problem" is a stock phrase that carries a variety of meanings. Some people associate it with the British Empire and certain former colonies, e.g. Jamaica, Nigeria. It is typically used to mean "I've taken care of it" or in place of "You're welcome", in response to "Thank you". (i.e. "No thanks are necessary; my effort was no problem for me.") It has no real meaning outside of the context in which it is used. A phrase or idiom dictionary translation of "no problem" might read "I'll take care of it" or "there's nothing to worry about". However, it effectively means "I'm not going to give you any other assurances", and thus ends a conversation about whatever risk is about to be incurred. Some think it means roughly the same thing as "shut up".

Okay...did you read the part that says, effectively means...? Negative! It's used so much there's even an abbreviation for it (NP) when IMing (still not convinced that's a verb). We frequently use it in what Wikipedia calls fake Spanish..."no problemo." Should I just accept it?

Thank goodness Wikipedia finishes the entry with: “No problem” implies that the speaker was not inconvenienced. However, “my pleasure” implies not just that the speaker was not inconvenienced, but also that the speaker was pleased to provide the help. “Glad to do it” is a less formal version of "my pleasure."

I'm still not sure how I feel about this phrase but, when I sincerely thanked the emergency road service technicians for putting the spare on the car after working for 30 minutes a foot away from 65 mile an hour traffic that streaked by like a Bullet train, I was relieved to hear him offer "No problem."


Jenny said...

I've never thought about this. Now that you've said it, though, I'm completely in agreement with you. I'm going to have to watch myself so that I don't say "No problem".

organized chaos said...

eek! You're right, but I know I say 'no problem' all the time... I'll have to keep myself in check. I'd never thought about it.

Happy Birthday!! :)