Date: Mon, 20 Oct 1997 13:09:20 +0000

From: Lynne Murphy M_Lynne_Murphy[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]BAYLOR.EDU

Subject: Re: thank you . . . thank you

Gregory {Greg} Downing wrote:

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

just a side note--

when a certain american sociolinguist came to visit the university of

the witwatersrand, he noted that "the response to 'thank you' seems to

be 'thank you'" in south africa--he'd say 'thank you' to a cashier,

then they'd say 'thank you'. after being there a while i realized

that that was a misapprehension of the problem. (not that i think

greg's assessment of american thankyou-thankyou is wrong, i think

that's right.) but, what was happening in us/sa encounters was that

both participants had different ideas about what should get thanks.

shopkeepers there would always thank me when i got out my money. i

found that a little crass, but i'm sure they'd find it crass (or

illogical) for american clerks to thank the customer upon giving them

the paid-for merchandise. so, they'd say thank you for the money, i'd

say thank you to them for taking it (not feeling that 'you're welcome'

was the right thing to say) and a half dozen other thank you's would

be said over the course of the un-smooth conversation.

i agree that 'you're welcome' is dying out a bit--seems formal and it

does not mitigate the assumption that the thankee has been imposed

upon in some way. but i far prefer it to the s.a./uk 'it's a

pleasure', which is said no matter how unpleasant the activity

actually was. "thanks for not suing me for crashing your car" "it's a

pleasure"... "thanks for your patience as i, the phlebotomist, miss

your vein for the fortieth time" "it's a pleasure", "thanks for

mucking the pigeon droppings out of the stairwell" "it's a


just random thoughts strung together in order to avoid grading...



M. Lynne Murphy

Assistant Professor in Linguistics

Department of English

Baylor University

PO Box 97404

Waco, TX 76798