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  Tuesday January 27th, 2015    

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You're welcome (03/12/2014)
By Frances Edstrom
You’re welcome

Radio host: Thank you, Mr. Smith, for being with us today.

Mr. Smith: Thank you.

Radio host: Thank you, Ms. Jones, for also being here for this exciting program.

Ms. Jones: Thank you.

Whatever happened to “you’re welcome?” I once had a young woman tell me that she thought “you’re welcome” was rude to say. She thought it sounded ungrateful. When I explained that it meant “you are welcome to call on me anytime,” she said she thought it still sounded rude. I didn’t have a comeback.

In more informal situations, we seem to have “no problem” thinking of responses to a thanks. We have “no problem” or “sure” or “any time” or “no worries,” which our Aussie friends say. But more and more, in a formal situation, the response to “thank you” is “thank you.” Why?

Parents of young children are quite vigilant about “please” and “thank you,” but it’s not often I hear a mother or father remind a little kid to say “you’re welcome.”

I wonder if it is disappearing in other languages, as well. Spanish and French speakers usually go with “it was nothing” — de nada, de rien. German speakers use the same word for “please” and “you’re welcome” — bitte. Italians have a similar multipurpose word — prego — which can mean “you’re welcome” or a myriad other things. I suppose given recent news stories, we should learn that Russians use the same word for “please” and “thank you,” too, although they don’t seem to be being so polite with Ukraine.

Some changes in our language have come about because of feminism, such as no longer being able to say, “If a person wants to sign up he may do so,” in which the pronoun and noun agree. Instead, we now feel compelled to say, “If a person wants to sign up, they…” using a singular noun and plural pronoun.

I’m not convinced that bastardizing English grammar has helped the cause of women, but it’s typical of a certain vocal segment of the population to want change no matter if it’s for the good or not. Pity the poor English language learner, who learns first and foremost that English makes no sense any more.

This change that eliminates “you’re welcome” from our vocabulary, however, doesn’t seem to have a political or social impetus. If it does, I’d like someone to clue me in. The only reason for not saying “you’re welcome” that I can think of is that perhaps these people don’t want us to call on them to help anytime. Maybe they just want to be left alone.

In any event, this job I’ve taken on of keeping track of the use of polite terms is beginning to seem like a thankless venture.



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