Posted by: Jack Henry | September 22, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Thank you!

Good morning! And thanks for joining me today.

This morning, I’m diving into how we thank each other and also how we respond when we are thanked. Because my spouse is from England, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to the UK throughout most of my adult life, and years ago I briefly lived in the south of England. I noticed right away that the Brits are very polite: they rarely neglect to say please and thank you. Here in the U.S., we may imply a “please” with a friendly tone of voice, such as, “Would you mind handing me the salt?” Don’t try that with my spouse. He’ll stare you down with an angelic smile on his face until you say the word…please. Yep, good manners by friendly intimidation.

What I noticed very quickly during my first visits to the UK is that the Brits didn’t (and mostly still don’t) say “you’re welcome.” Instead, they tended to nod. And you may have noticed that saying “you’re welcome” here in the U.S. is becoming less customary—at least the way we say it is changing. These days, you’re more likely to hear something like “no problem,” “sure thing,” or “you bet.” My son says, “Of course!”

Well, Grammar Girl recently wrote a post on this very topic and explained that saying “you’re welcome” is a fairly new practice in the English language. And it’s not that common in English dialects outside of the U.S. It is more common, apparently, in other languages such as Swedish, Russian, and German.

This begs the question, why doesn’t the exchange end after the words “thank you” are spoken? Someone does someone else a favor; the person receiving the favor acknowledges with thanks. The exchange is over, isn’t it? Not in the U.S.

Grammar Girl pointed out, and I’ve noticed this too, that some people get a little touchy when they say thank you and get a response like “no problem.” They find it rude because they assume it suggests they were a problem to begin with. But she points out that we really should be thinking of all of these “pleasantries” as formulaic expressions that are designed to perform a social task. She says that these expressions “…no longer carry literal meaning…In fact, younger people have been known to view ‘you’re welcome’ as pompous because they see it as emphasizing or pointing out that ‘Yes, indeed, I did do you a favor.’”

It seems to me that some people may just be looking for a reason to be upset. Maybe we should all be happy with a good intention, a friendly tone of voice, and a smile (and perfect grammar—just kidding!).

Please enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you!

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | jack henry™

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123

Pronouns she/her/hers

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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