Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thank you, Bryan Garner

From Bryan Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day, on “thank you” and responses to it:

“Thank you” remains the best, most serviceable phrase, despite various attempts to embellish it or truncate it: “thanking you in advance” (presumptuous and possibly insulting), “thank you very much” (with a trailer of surplusage), “thanks” (useful on informal occasions), “many thanks” (informal but emphatic), *“much thanks” (archaic and increasingly unidiomatic), *“thanks much” (confusing the noun with the verb), and *“thanx” (unacceptably cutesy).
I prefer “thank you.” My favorite embellishment, for use on the telephone when appropriate: “Thank you, you’ve been really helpful.” More:
The traditional response to “Thank you” is “You’re welcome.” Somehow, though, in the 1980s, “You’re welcome” came to feel a little stiff and formal, perhaps even condescending (as if the speaker were saying, “Yes, I really did do you a favor, didn’t I?”). As a result, two other responses started displacing “You’re welcome”: (1) “No problem” (as if the speaker were saying, “Don’t worry, you didn’t inconvenience me too much”); and (2) “No, thank you” (as if the person doing the favor really considered the other person to have done the favor). The currency of “You’re welcome” seems to diminish little by little, but steadily. Old-fashioned speakers continue to use it, but its future doesn’t look bright.
Suddenly I am an old-fashioned speaker.

What do you say when someone says “thank you”?

[Bryan Garner, author of Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009), offers a free Usage Tip of the Day. You can sign up at Orange Crate Art is a Garner-friendly zone. The Garner asterisk marks an “invariably inferior form.”]

comments: 3

Daughter Number Three said...

I think I tend toward "you're welcome," but it probably varies a bit.

It's interesting that "no problem" is so similar to "de nada" or "de rien," which no one seems to have a problem with.

Bardiac said...

I also like "my pleasure" especially when whatever I did is a pleasure. said...

I say and appreciate "you're welcome." The phrase "no problem" usually comes across the wrong way, and I try to avoid saying it despite its prevalence. However, I also view "it was nothing," which is more analogous to "de nada" and "de rien" as perfectly acceptable.