DEAR ABBY: May I point out something to "Mannerly Mom in Cumberland" (July 23)? She's the woman who, after thanking someone, becomes offended when she hears, "No problem," rather than, "You're welcome."
In many languages, the literal response to "Thank you" translates to, "It was nothing." So a reply of "No problem" is not entirely inappropriate. In fact, it makes more sense to me than, "You're welcome," which I don't understand at all. I am welcome to what?
If "Mannerly Mom" is really worried about teaching her children proper manners, shouldn't she be more concerned that they DO respond in acknowledgement rather than insist that they use the proper words? To me, that would be a much more valuable lesson. -– DENNIS IN ROCHESTER, N.Y.
DEAR DENNIS: According to Webster's New World Dictionary, "You're welcome" means, "You're under no obligation for the favor given." But allow me to share with you that the topic of whether it's appropriate to respond to a "Thank you" with "No problem" is one that energized more than a few of my older readers to say they find it offensive. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I never realized how often "No problem" was used until last year, when a speaker at our customer service seminar drew our attention to the issue. Since then, our company has set national standards against the use of "No problem," which has become a standard response to "Thank you."
I would like to suggest an alternative: "My pleasure," which conveys a completely different feeling. Saying this to customers makes them feel as though you were happy to be of service to them. -- JUST A NOTE FROM KANSAS
DEAR ABBY: I agree with you that language is evolving, but one reason is that so many cultures are present -- and becoming more prevalent -- in the U.S. In Spanish, the literal translation of "de nada" is "It's nothing." Surprisingly, in England, "You're welcome" is not commonly used. I'm married to a Brit and found it strange that my flawlessly mannered mother-in-law would just smile and nod. My husband has taken to saying, "No worries," which is quite Australian. -- APRIL IN MAPLE GROVE, MINN.
DEAR ABBY: Here in the South, the common response to a thank you (especially with younger service-industry people) is "Uh-huh." Oh, how I long to hear "No problem." If I take the time to thank people for service, please make some effort to acknowledge my thanks. "Uh-huh" sounds absentminded, as though the speaker has already mentally moved on. -- PREFERS "NO PROBLEM"
DEAR ABBY: It has been my experience that young people use the phrase indiscriminately for every statement or question put to them. "No problem" -- like some four-letter words -- betrays a lack of vocabulary or unwillingness (born of laziness) to use more precise language. In addition, this response implies that the other party might have thought there was a possible problem when that implication was not intended. -- DANIEL IN KISSIMME, FLA.
DEAR ABBY: Your readers might be interested in the way "Thank you" is responded to in other countries. In England, there is no response. The service has been rendered, the server thanked, the transaction is complete. In French- or Spanish-speaking countries, the proper response is, "It's nothing." In Arabic-speaking countries it's, "No thanks for doing my duty," and in China it's, "No thanks are necessary." My favorite: When I said "Thank you" in my best Korean to a young Korean woman, she replied, "No problem!" -- INDIANA LINGUIST