Date: Sun, 19 Oct 1997 22:08:18 -0400

From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU

Subject: Re: thank you . . . thank you

Before this gets thread gets too old, my ante:

I've very much noticed this "mutual thank-you" formula among 20-somethings

and 30-somethings on the east coast of the US around NYC. I've noticed

myself doing it a lot. I have a feeling that the cultural and resultant

sociolinguistic change is maybe driven by US culture's increasing concern

with egalitarianism or an appearance of it. "Thank you" means "You did me a

favor" and "You're welcome" means "I did, but I was glad to." That feels

suspiciously unequal to people (granter of a favor, and receiver of a

favor). So they instead construe the situation where thanks are being

offered as one where both sides are giving and/or both getting. In a store,

the purchaser and seller will both say "thank you" since both have gotten

something from the other party. In the old way of doing thank-you's and

you're-welcome's, custom or convention detemined which side was getting the

favor and therefore was supposed to say "thank you." As those kinds of

behavioral conventions weakened over the last 30 years, people either had to

hope they and the people they were interacting with would have the same

self-determined sense of who was to say thanks and who was to say you're

welcome (which maybe half the time would not coincide naturally), or else

(and this is what they in fact did) work out a formula where both sides said

the same thing, so it doesn't matter which person sees which as doing or

getting the favor. Both are saying "you did me a favor." The seller for

example was done a favor in being chosen by the customer, and customer was

done a favor by the seller who stocked what the customer needed.


Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]