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Grates otiosae sunt odiosae

The contemporary practice in American English, particularly in media interviews, of responding to “Thanks” or “Thank you” with the identical word(s) instead of “You’re welcome,”  “Don’t mention it,” “Not at all,” etc. is both otiose and odious. It amounts to insinuating the idea that the recipient of thanks is (and must be!) every bit as or more thankful than the interlocutor who first uttered the word; and that, moreover, the simple acknowledgement connoted by the traditional “You’re welcome” is somehow both insufficient and possibly even supercilious. The traditional license granted “Thank yóu”––i.e., with an emphatic stress on the pronoun––as an appropriate response when the recipient does indeed feel impelled to express greater gratitude than what actuated the original utterer’s expression of thanks is in the process of ceding its currency to a general linguistic tendency that aligns itself with the general American cultural attitude that tends to blur both grammatical and social hierarchies, heedless of its distortive effect on both language and mores.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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