When someone is kind enough to thank you for something, how do you respond?
Next time you're shopping, or in another situation where people get thanked, listen to some responses. Does "Thank you" get followed by the standard American answer, "You're welcome," or is there something else?
As far as I can tell, "You're welcome" is becoming dangerously rare. Too often, if people answer a "Thank you" at all, they knock it away by saying "No problem!"
That's a shorthand way of saying "I'm not bothered," which doesn't strike me as answering what the question was in the first place.
"Thank you" for being given something seems to require "you're welcome" to make any sense:
Thank you (for giving me this).
You're welcome (to have it).
French has more polite forms which have stood up better against modern rushing. "Merci" may be answered "je vous en prie" (I pray -- or beg -- you), as in "Please, don't mention it." More commonly, at least for French speakers I've met, I hear "avec plaisir" -- with pleasure. Even the most dismissive replies I hear in French, "de rien" or "ca ne fait rien" are "it's nothing" (in short and long versions).
"No problem" is more crude than that. It's "I didn't think it was a problem, you did!" or "You'd have had trouble doing it, I didn't." As I think of the tone in which "No problem" gets said, I get reminded of the schoolyard "Nyah-nyah" teasing I thought I had long ago left behind.
So let's be kinder to one another in conversation. Avoid "No problem!" and try something that means what you're really thinking... or what you'd like people to think you're thinking, anyway. See how much smoother conversations get.
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