Welcome to our blog, where we comment on a wide variety of topics. Some of them relate to our line of work. Others are more far ranging.
By Cheryl Chase & Jim Rhodes
The young man from upstairs held open the door for me yesterday morning as I left my apartment building laden down with two bags. “Thank you so much,” I said. “No problem, ma’am,” he replied and went merrily on his way.
Later on that same day, while shopping at the local market, the cashier handed me my change and my receipt and I thanked her. She responded, “Sure thing, have a nice day!”
That evening at my friend’s house, after an especially yummy dinner, I thanked her profusely for the meal and she said, “No worries, happy to do it!”
At first I was bothered by what I perceived as a lapse of manners. When did “You’re welcome” become “No problem” or “No worries?” After all, my mother taught me to always say “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome.”
It got me thinking. What, exactly, should one say in response to “thank you?” What do we mean by “you’re welcome?”
It’s interesting to ponder how in American parlance the meaning of the word welcome morphed over time from “welcome to my home” or “you’re welcome to take the leftovers home with you,” to “you’re welcome to accept the kind thing for which you are thanking me.”
The usage of you’re welcome as an acknowledgement of thank you in American English is relatively recent, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which traces the first recorded example to 1907. https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/14639/whats-the-origin-of-youre-welcome. It’s unclear what Americans said to each other before then.
In addition to the formal you’re welcome, Americans often say, no worries, or no problem, often accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. Or you might just hear a short sure thing or you betcha.
No worries, by the way, is thought to have come over into American speech from Australia.
In British English, the more common response would be not at all, don’t mention it, or sometimes my pleasure. Or occasionally the all-purpose word cheers.
Many other languages use something along the lines of it’s nothing.
In Spanish or Portuguese, it’s de nada.
In French, it’s de rien.
In Swedish, it’s det var ingenting.
In Tagalog, it’s walang anuman, which translates no problems.
In Arabic it’s afwan or wala yhemmak, which means don’t worry about it.
In Dutch, it’s graag gedaan, which means gladly done.
In German, it’s bitte or more formally bitte söhn, which also means please. German speakers say it’s impossible to translate literally into English. Several other languages, including Polish, Russian, Slovenian and Hebrew are also said to have the same word for please and you’re welcome.
More on this subject at https://www.glossophilia.org/?p=3404.
Influence author Robert Cialdini has come to see “you’re welcome” as a missed opportunity. “There is a moment of power that we are all afforded as soon as someone has said ‘thank you,’” Cialdini explains. To capitalize on this power, he recommends an unconventional reply:
“I know you’d do the same for me.”
That’s kind of catchy and something I may start to use in my world.