Date: Mon, 20 Oct 1997 13:09:20 +0000 From: Lynne Murphy 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 pleasure"... just random thoughts strung together in order to avoid grading... lynne -- M. Lynne Murphy Assistant Professor in Linguistics Department of English Baylor University PO Box 97404 Waco, TX 76798