Posted by: wordofexcellence | April 1, 2011

No Problem

“No problem.”

When did “no problem” become the equivalent of “you’re welcome?”  I know that many consider me a crank when it comes to verbiage and usage, but I don’t think that there’s sufficient weight behind the “no problem” answer to somebody’s thankfulness.

Truly, when I say “thank you,” I expect a “you’re welcome” in return.  Lately, that’s just not happening.  I am flustered every time, and it isn’t simply the younger generation that is guilty.  This happenstance is occurring on a cross-generational level.  Now, you might not find Grandma or Granny (old-style) saying it, but I suppose that depends on your definition of the grand old lady of the family.

A recent purveyor of the scurrilous phrase is a 40ish friend of mine, whose children are now 17 (twins).  She may not be ready for it, but in the not too distant future, she’ll be welcoming her grandchildren into the world. I suppose that means that we actually can begin to expect Grannie to be saying “no problem” in response to our thankfulness.

I’ve come across a quote this morning from C.S. Lewis, renowned author of The Chronicles of Narnia, and it would apply in some ways to the discussion I’m having with you, the reader, and myself, about this unfortunate use of words to express how happy we are to help each other.

The quote reads as follows: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries, avoiding all entanglements; lock it up safe in the coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket; safe, dark, motionless, airless- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” 

Now I don’t know if Mr. Lewis had any encounters with people who responded with “no problem” when he thanked them for service or a good deed, but he certainly seems to have analyzed a good bit of our proclivity to keep things close to the vest, as it were.  The giving of the heart is a treacherous thing, we find.  Often it’s broken by the very ones we love the most.  We therefore become convinced that this valve must be protected at all costs, that we must forsake the emotional outpouring that happens naturally when we’ve become enamored of another.

I have to surmise that the change in language is spurred by a change in heart.  Trying to protect oneself from being too involved with others, even on that level of sales clerk waiting on a customer, is paramount in our lives.  Committing to service, or to friendliness with strangers (don’t take candy, of course), is tantamount to admitting that we are social animals.  That’s what the website tells me, anyway – we apparently have a need for other people in our lives.

I hope that someone has been edified by this scribbling.  I’m sure someone has been, and that person is likely to sit back, inhale or exhale, and say “thank you” after reading this.

Well, you know what?  No problem!


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