You’re Welcome

Some friends and I recently discussed what passes (and, more to the point, doesn’t pass) for politeness in conversation. One of my friends has a real problem with restaurant servers who ask if he’s “all set.” He claims that the question doesn’t make any sense…”’All set’ for what?” he’ll ask back, to which the server will usually reply “Is there anything else I can get you right now?” which is the question my friend wanted to be asked in the first place.  He is a very generous tipper, so, in retrospect, I don’t think most servers mind when he vocalizes this particular pet peeve.

We also talked about using the phrases “Excuse me?” and “Please?” if you didn’t hear/understand what someone said, and you’d like them to repeat themselves. Our consensus was that they appear to be interchangeable, are somewhat regional in prevalence, but universally preferable to our teens’ (and tweens’) mumbling of “whut?” to which I reply “Excuse me?” and my son will remember his manners. Especially when it’s accompanied by the condescending raised eyebrow.

The hottest topic seemed to be the substitution of “No problem” for “You’re welcome,” especially in business conversations. Everyone agreed that the latter is far more polite, and much better received. Since I took three years of French in High School, I pointed out that the formal phrase for “You’re Welcome,” en Français (pronounced aw-fraw SAY), is “Il n’ya pas de quoi,” which, literally translated, means “This thing (you are thanking me for) is nothing.” So, the perceived level of politeness may be cultural in this case.

Personally, en Anglais (pronounced on-on GLAZE), I very much prefer “You’re welcome,” and bristle (albeit internally) when I hear “No problem” – it’s like I tried, and failed, to inconvenience the person. That is very rarely my intent, and I like to think that I’m quite accomplished at putting people out, if I apply myself to the task. My friends were all in agreement with me on this. I may need better friends.

So, do you have a linguistic “pet peeve?”  Or would you prefer if I called it an “aversion” or a “vexation?”

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
(513)671-3322 local
(800)923-9247 toll free
(513)671-3363 fax

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