Wednesday, December 07, 2005

More, Ahem, Sticklers

Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema's weekly chat has been bombarded recently with complaints about restaurant servers' use of "you guys" (covered in this space) and "no problem."

Today, a final word (yay!) and a verdict in the sticklers' favor (boo!):

Kingstowne, Va.: Can you stand one more comment on last week's issue about whether a waiter or waitress should use the phrase "no problem"? Seems to me that this is a silly phrase to use because it should be assumed that there is no problem--that is, if carrying out diners' requests is a problem, then the person needs to find another job!

Tom Sietsema: Agreed!

End of discussion. Case closed. Let's move along, people.
Repeat after me, people: Figure of speech.

Does "You're welcome" really make any sense as a response to "Thank you"? And what's the deal with "How do you do"? (I liked Kramer's response: "I do great!") Figures of speech. If "no problem" is a problem for you, you have some significantly bigger problems.


Nicole said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Perhaps I'm just sensitive about this criticism because I tend to say "no problem," but I find it to be so ridiculous.

Bill said...

Another biggie that I've heard stupid people ruminate about is "I'm OK" or "I'm fine" as a response to "Can I get you something?"

"Well, I didn't *ask* you if you were fine ..."

Yeah. I'm fine WITHOUT A BEVERAGE at the current time. Are you happy now?

JP said...

Although it doesn't involve a grammar issue, my biggest peeve in this area is the affected phrase, "How are you?" It is not a true question and I would argue most people don't listen for an answer to it. What the phrase means is "I hope you're doing well." But no doubt in an effort to sound more sincere and affable, people adopted this phrase and it became engrained in our language as a standard greeting disingenuously posed as a question.

Bill said...

I'm no fan of the "How are you?" situation either, but again: Illogical, yes. Illegitimate? Can't make that leap.

I'm all for applying logic, up to a point, to actual writing and even speaking. "Try AND do it" makes no sense; it's a failed attempt to say "Try TO do it." But "How are you?" and "How do you do?" and "No problem" are social niceties; whether they make any sense is irrelevant.

Peter Fisk said...

However, “try and” is largely accepted as standard idiom on the other side of the Pond.

SRinTO said...

I don't have a problem with "no problem." It has long been considered polite to answer a thankyou with the phrase, "It's no trouble at all, Madam [or Sir]." (See any Victorian novel.) "No problem" is simply the same idiom updated.

Nicole said...

After people started bitching about "no problem," I started adopting the Brit response "my pleasure," which I plan to start shortening to "pleasure" any day now.

Stephen Jones said...

Here in Saudi I cringe whenever I hear "No problem." Thers's always going to be a problem. I just want to know what in advance what it is.

Peter Fisk said...

Stephen, permit me to be the one to ask: What the hell are you doing in Saudi?

Stephen Jones said...

What the hell are you doing in Saudi?
err, working!?

Louisa said...

I had an employer who also felt "no problem" was unacceptable and would not let us use it in our bookstore.
So what do you say to the French, whose most common expression for "you're welcome" is "du rien" -- "it's nothing!"
Or to the Spanish, whose "de nada" is essentially the same thing.
I usually reserve "no problem" for customers who are asking for an extra service, in which case their request is met with "that would be no problem at all!"

KellyK said...

I usually use "no problem" as an answer to requests, not as a response to "Thank you." "Kelly, could you...?" "Sure, no problem."

Either way, I'm not seeing the, er, problem. As Louisa pointed out, French and Spanish use what's essentially "It's nothing" as a response to "Thank you."

I guess you could say "No problem" with a tone and body language that conveyed that it really was a problem, but you could do the same with "You're welcome."