On a recent trip to England and the Netherlands, I must have said “thank you” a hundred times. Not once, did I hear, “you’re welcome”.
At one pub, when the bartender served me a beer, I said “thanks”. When she responded with “no worries”, I thought I would test this a bit further. I then said, “much appreciated”, to which she said, “absolutely”. So then I took a quick sip and said, “this is great; thanks again”, to which she responded, “cheers”.
“No worries”, “absolutely”, “of course”, “no problem”, “not at all”, “oh, certainly”, “sure”, and “cheers”.
Hmm. I had to look into this.
“You’re welcome” in response to “thank you” has only been around since about 1907, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. And … when you think about it, there kind of is a problem with that phrase.
It really isn’t very friendly, is it? It has a kind of superiority feel to it. Yes, I did something for you and even though you’ve acknowledge that with a proper “thank you”, I’ll reaffirm my generosity, see you’re thanks, and raise you a very pompous, “you’re quite welcome”. Be on your way now, peasant; you’re disturbing my air quality.
A few years ago, six of us friends went out to dinner and we had a great time. At one point, one of our friends held up a beer and said this: “All I can say is, thank you guys for being our friends.” That was way too formal and certainly not needed, so to break the awkward tension, I countered that with “Oh, you’re welcome.” Everyone laughed and we carried on. We laughed, because of the obvious ridiculousness of both statements. “You’re welcome” works in comedy and sarcasm.
But, in today’s overly sensitive and easily offended world, you almost can’t win this game. “No problem”. Oh … I’m a problem now? I’m sorry I showed up and made you do your job! Whew; pouring that beer was above and beyond. Do you want a tip, too?
I have one. The only one not listed earlier is the only one that rubs me the wrong way. “Uh huh”. I mean, why beat around the bush. Just say, “fuck off”. At least, “fuck off” would make me laugh and you had the courage to be real. I like real. The only thing worse than “Uh huh” would be “Mm hmm”. That one says, “I don’t even want to waste my energy on parting my lips.”
My favorite; and I’m adopting this, is “cheers”. It just works, right?
“Cheers” is a toast to wish the recipient happiness and good will. It says, “we’re on the same level and it’s a pleasure sharing time and space with you”. While it’s casual (as things should be), it’s very respectful. “Cheers” is Namaste, salutations, you’re welcome here, no worries, and hakuna matata. It’s comfortable and merry.
It’s a social Swiss army knife. A real one. Not one of those knock-offs, where you break a nail trying to pry open the knife and when you do its short and quite dull. No, “cheers” is not only multi-functional, its easy to use and the bottle opener actually opens bottles. This bottle.
Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash