No problem? No worries? Say thank you

Newscaster: That was James Cudmore reporting from Montreal. Thanks, James.

Cudmore: You got it.

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Me: (shouting at the car radio) Are you kidding me? A national reporter on the CBC and you can’t say “you’re welcome”? “You got it” is the best you can do?

I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. It seems that “you’re welcome” has become so passé, so 1990s. In “hip-speak” the appropriate response to “thank you” is “yup,” “no problem,” or “no worries.” God-forbid that we should acknowledge the gratitude that someone expresses in some meaningful way? Let’s just brush them off.

I know that I’m sounding like a curmudgeonly old man and I’m not – I’m only middle-aged – but I am growing increasingly curmudgeonly, and I find it galling when I go to a store or restaurant, spend money, and say, “thank you” only to be met with a “no worries.” I want to say, “I hope not! I trust I’m not disturbing you by asking you to do your job, given that you’re being paid! I would expect that my patronizing this establishment isn’t a problem or a worry.” The wrath is compounded when it’s the proprietor who tells me that my patronizing his establishment is not a problem.

There is an appropriate use of “no problem” in response to “thank you.” Say, for example, one is driving home and finds someone trying to free a cat from a tree, or attempting to dislodge a car from a snowbank and, unbidden, he or she stops the car and assists. The grateful recipient of aid says, “Thank you for stopping and helping!” In this case, a response of “No problem!” may be fitting. Essentially one is saying, “It was no problem for me to go out of my way to assist you.” That makes sense to me.

I know that the intent behind the “no worries” is likely genuine appreciation, but there’s something about this trend that irritates me. It feels dismissive and condescending. When did it become OK to disregard the thanks that people express? When did people start to take appreciation for granted?

Interestingly, “you’re welcome” as a routine response to “thank you” is a relatively new one in English, having first been cited in 1907. Prior to that, “my pleasure” or a simple “thank you” in return might have been appropriate. I know that in French Canada, they often use the literal translation, “bienvenue,” as a response to “merci,” whereas, the French in Europe are more likely to respond with “de rien” (it was nothing), “à votre service” (at your service) or “je vous en prie.”

I wonder if the way that we express our gratitude says anything about us as a society. Is there any conclusion that we can draw from this trend? Perhaps nothing at all. I do take some solace in the fact that people generally still say “thank you.” For that I truly “thank God,” but don’t worry, I’m not expecting her to reply.

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