Thank you: a polite expression of gratitude. giphy.com Saying thank you is good manners. That's not up for debate. But we do need to talk about the way to respond when being thanked. giphy.com You need to say something, right? Many people, particularly in the US, reply to “thank you” with “you’re welcome.” giphy.com As this Tumblr post points out, this has begun to change, as young people use and hear "you're welcome" sarcastically. And it's not just young people: To people from other parts of the world, “you’re welcome” can sound rude. giphy.com Brits, for example, can't help but hear a hint of condescension in there. But the problem with “you’re welcome” isn’t sarcasm. Well, not the whole problem. giphy.com It’s about meaning. Not that this is the intention, but "you’re welcome” can sound like you're taking the polite gesture from the thanker, and bringing attention to your kindness. giphy.com To the unaccustomed ear, it can sound like “yes, I did you a favour, you should be thankful.” giphy.com It’s not intentional, I’m sure. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF giphy.com But that doesn't make it any less ambiguous. Similarly “no problem”, or the reply favoured by our Australian friends, “no worries”, are both flawed. giphy.com Often said with a dismissive shrug, "no problem" can be interpreted as simply denying that being kind is an inconvenience. giphy.com But to those used to hearing "you're welcome," "no problem" can be sound like being kind is sometimes an inconvenience... giphy.com ...and that you might not have helped if it had been. Young people tend to respond to being thanked with "no problem", which older people find rude. giphy.com So it's a generational problem, yes. But also a linguistic one. Why is this? Here's where it gets technical... giphy.com Both "you're welcome" and "no problem" are phatic expressions, an expression whose sole function is to perform a social role. We use phatic expressions all the time. For example when we respond to “how are you?” by saying “good, you?” giphy.com Or by responding to "what's up?" with "what's up?". Often we use a phatic response when we don’t know what else to say. Saying "I'm OK," for example, even when we're not. youtube.com Or to simply acknowledge someone, or something, when there is no need to convey actual information. We know people aren’t (usually) actively asking how we are, so we respond phatically. giphy.com But because "thank you" is a sincere expression, many common phatic responses sound empty in comparison. giphy.com The emptiness of the response is why some people tend to find "no problem" or "you're welcome" dismissive. So, what are the options? Are we at a linguistic impasse? giphy.com Thankfully, no. As the Brits have long known, the correct way to respond to “thank you” is to say "thank you". giphy.com Similarly, you can respond to "cheers" with "cheers". This response is still phatic in purpose, but the tone and context can't be misread. giphy.com Effectively, you're thanking the thanker for their thanks. Everybody wins! And there's no need to get stuck in a thank you loop; once each will do. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF sunshine-summer-trip.tumblr.com Thank you. H/T This post on Tumblr, and users allthingslinguistic, hinallie, and thisisnotharmless.