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shameless pleading





The un-welcome

Erin McKean decodes a modern annoyance:

There’s a certain kind of person – you may even be this kind of person – whose good will after receiving a favor and replying with “thank you” is completely wiped out when the response is not the traditional “you’re welcome,” but instead the breezier “no problem.”

As “no problem” has caught on and spread, replacing “you’re welcome” in situations ranging from casual personal encounters to business deals, the number, vigor, and shrillness of the complaints in etiquette columns and Internet forums has spread along with it.

The reasons given – or unstated – are varied. Many especially dislike hearing “no problem” in commercial transactions and from folks in customer service jobs, since, as the customer is always right, nothing a customer could ask for could ever be “a problem.” “I assume my business is not a problem,” huffed one complainer on the message boards at the Visual Thesaurus. Others on the Internet have taken the same tack: “Why would it be a problem? It’s her job, isn’t it?” and “It better damn well NOT be a problem, because I just gave you my money.” Some dwell on the counterfactual: “I always wonder if the person would have helped me if they had known it would be a problem.” And from Twitter: “I know it’s no problem. You rang up my orange juice. How could that be a…problem?”

[more] via The un-welcome – The Boston Globe.

6 comments to The un-welcome

  • tudza

    There’s a certain kind of person alright, I think I’d use the term ass.

    I know you’ll thank me for pointing this out, so I’ll just say, “No problem.”

  • I’m rather guilty of using this reply, myself (although I actually tend to say “de nada” or “no worries” instead of “no problem”, but let’s just pretend I say “no problem” since they all boil down to the same thing).

    I know that for me, it’s a humility thing. When I use it, it’s pretty much shorthand for, “There’s no need to thank me, I would have done it for anyone since I’m a basically nice person“. But for those who want to keep the gist of “you’re welcome” while using something else, “anytime” works (since I believe that when one says “you’re welcome”, it’s shorthand for “you’re welcome to ask me again in the future”).

    On an amusing tangent, the other year I was having some blood drawn and afterwards, I said, “Thank you” with a smile and a nod to the lab technician. The technician paused for a second before stating, “I’ll never understand why folks thank me. I mean, I just stabbed you with a needle; what are you thanking me for?”

    I thought about it for a bit and replied, “…thank you for not making it worse?” while pantomiming a grinding action with my hand, like I was scooping out hard-pack ice cream.

  • I also dislike the term, but my reasoning is, I brought them a problem for them to work on, and they’re in effect saying, “for me, it was so simple, that I think you were a wimp or idiot for not being able to handle it yourself.”

  • Danny B.

    Since having this pointed out, I’m trying to say “You’re welcome,” more often. Just to be different. I do like the Northern response of “you bet.”

  • Kristi B.

    Wow. Who knew that no problem was a problem? I rarely say “you’re welcome” but only because it seems a bit too formal for me. My intent is to acknowledge the thanking person and make them feel comfortable. Nothing more, nothing less. Not sure the use of “no problem” warrants a public outcry. No worries, people!

  • Alex D

    I always wonder at people who become so unnecessarily insulted over absolutely nothing of real importance. The English language is a living thing. It grows and evolves and may one day die or even become extinct. The customer is not always right. Most of the time the customer is actually wrong – hence the need for customer service. These same customers who take offense to “no problem” are over-thinking the phrase. How many times has one seen a customer service representative who rolls the eyes or sighs disgustedly? They are obviously in the wrong line of work, but they do make it clear that they think of helping the customer as a bother or a problem. Why then would it be insulting for another customer service representative to say “no problem”, thereby acknowledging that it was a pleasure to help you; i.e. unlike my coworker, I don’t find it a bother to assist you. Stop over-thinking this people and relax! There are worse evils and heartaches in this world. Is it really necessary to be so upset over something so silly? Or is your life so charmed that this phrase is truly the worse thing to have happened to you since you can remember?

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