Politeness – Great Expectations?

Today’s post comes to us from our Ben.

I’ve been pondering this post about how our daughter sort of demands politeness. If she says “Thanks”, you better say “You’re welcome” or she’ll hound you until you do. And it makes me wonder what exactly the rules for politeness are.

“Here’s your breakfast”
“Thanks”
“You’re welcome”

Is different from

“Have a good day”
“Thanks”

Except in our case it would be like this:

Me: “Have a good day”
Her: “Thanks”
….
Her: “I said Thanks!”
Me: “You’re Welcome!”

Just one of her little quirks.

Her: “I like this movie.”
Me: “Ah”.
Her: “…I said I like this movie.”
Me: “I know. I heard you.”

Her: Mumble mumble mumble then very softly “I said I like this movie. I don’t know why he won’t answer” mumble mumble mumble.”

Me: “Stop picking at that.”
[keeps picking]
Me: “I said stop picking at that.”
Her: “OK” [keeps picking]
Me: “Hey! Stop picking”
Her: “But it’s bothering me.” [still picking]
Me: “I know, but you have to stop picking or it’s going to get worse.”
Her: Still picking “But it’s bothering me!”
Me: “I know. But you have t—”
Her: “OK FINE!!” [storms off to room.]
OK, that’s just teenager attitude, I get that.

She’ll apologize a lot for things that don’t necessarily need an apology. That’s OK, but she’s fussy about the response to that too. Just this morning I said she shouldn’t stack glasses together in the sink. She just didn’t know that, so I told her. She said “Sorry”. I said “Yep”. She says, “I said I’m sorry”. “I know, I heard you; you didn’t know so I’m telling you. You don’t have to say ‘sorry’.”

I think she expects us to say, “You’re forgiven” to every “Sorry”.

Do I have to? Is that expected?

The rules of grammar etiquette are hard. And sometimes I just don’t want too. And sometimes I don’t know she wants from me.

Worst Business Grammar you’ve heard?

52 thoughts on “Politeness – Great Expectations?”

  1. The institution where I’m currently an inmate charges me for one meal a day, the cost being included in my rent. While the food I prepare in my room is nicer, on the whole, I feel I should eat in the dining hall because 1) I’ve already paid for it and 2) it seems civilized and friendly to eat with my friends. The meals prepared in our kitchen are delivered to our tables by servers who struggle to understand our wishes and then struggle mightily to meet them. They are inexperienced and untrained, and few of them last long at this job.

    I try to encourage them with courtesy, which is probably a quixotic notion. The servers are obviously being paid next to nothing, and they get no tips, so I smother them with gratitude when they get something right. They have a unique way of punishing me for that.

    Steve: “Oh, there’s my cranberry juice! Thank you very much.”
    Server: “Hey, no problem!”

    That “no problem” fascinates me because it sucks the politeness out of the interaction. As YA might point out, it falls well short of a simple “You’re welcome.” Translated, it means something like, “Well, what I did for you wasn’t such a big deal.” My attempt at courtesy is thus deflected or even rejected. Maybe I should dial down my gratitude, but that seems wrong.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You say one meal a day is included in your rent. Do you have the choice between breakfast, lunch or dinner? If so, have you tried switching it up a bit as to what meals you partake in?

      As to the “no problem” response to a thank you, that’s very widespread and has been for years. I don’t think of it as sucking the politeness out of the thank you, but more of a generational evolution of language.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I get to choose which meal I take. Because breakfast and lunch are so much easier to cook, I usually sit down for the evening meal. Switching meals doesn’t improve the service. The real problem is how these folks are compensated (poorly) and trained (very poorly).

        I mostly agree with your notion that young people are drawn to “no problem” when they might actually mean something closer to “you’re welcome.” I’m not dismayed by their typical response, although people who are bugged by language trends (Garrison Keillor, for example) are. I strained a bit to find something to fit the question of the day as a sort of courtesy to VS.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. For this generation, “No problem” has replaced “You’re welcome” – they don’t even know the second phrase for some reason, and they don’t realize that saying “No problem” suggests that there might have been a problem. It annoys the heck out of me, too, but I’ve finally realized it’s here to stay – I just wish I could educate them all.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I suppose we all have our pet peeves, I know I do. That said, I don’t expect the same level of “service” at Mickey’s Diner and say, Meritage. I fully accept that I’m more likely to be addressed as “you guys” at the former, and likely would receive a “no problem” response to a thank you there, as well. I think it’s pretty unthinkable that either would happen at the Meritage.

          Liked by 2 people

      3. As a communication, the exchange, “Thank You”, “You’re welcome” is formulaic and perfunctory. It satisfies the basic minimum of politeness, but it doesn’t even require eye contact. I understand that “No problem” feels dismissive, but consider how much the interchange is just an empty formality.
        From your comments, I sense that you mean to say, “I see you. I appreciate your circumstance and your service.” Find ways to say that.

        I may be overthinking a commonplace conversational reflex, but that’s what introverts do.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Like, when you run into someone you know and they ask “How are you?” they don’t expect you to give them the litany of all that ails you; a simple “I’m well, thank you, and how are you?” is all they expect.

          A lot of the common phrases in everyday usage, don’t really mean much. “We should have you over for dinner sometime,” is another one. It’s most definitely not a dinner invitation. Apparently an invitation to a meeting in the White House doesn’t mean much either these days.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. in my favorite movie “harvey” elswood p dowd asks people if they’d like to come to dinner sometime and when they say yes that would be nice he follows with when…
          interesting lead in

          Liked by 2 people

    2. I did some research on for this post and the whole ‘no Problem’ response is an issue for a lot of people. The idea behind it might be OK, but it’s not the best response.
      “My pleasure” is a better response if you’re not going to say ‘You’re welcome’.
      I should try that with daughter. Although often I try to give her some witty response and she just doesn’t get that. So I do it simply to amuse myself. And I figure at least it exposes her to more vocabulary. She does read a lot and knows words that surprise us. However her comprehension lacks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. i worked at an old folks home in high school and the good workers didn’t get measured in training or politeness they got measured in kindness and caring . they lasted longer back then because it was understood that you weren’t there for the money . there was an air of community in the break room on the floor , everywhere.
        appreciate caring instead of details

        Liked by 1 person

    3. The place my mom is at is like this. Although she goes down for breakfast and supper.
      The staff is very nice, but yeah, I doubt they’re getting paid much.

      Please, everyone, don’t twist your arm behind your back coming up with responses… 🙂 But any and all are appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. OK. Perfect (with a lilt at the end). This is the response of many customer service people. It irritates me. Too much “perfect” is just imperfect.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. right and i’m good are the new responses that get me

          right in question mark form to confirm agreement

          me: it’s nice outside today
          them: right?…

          you wanna go to the movies?
          i’m good
          (means no)

          bugs me

          Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s going to be tough remembering any specific instances of bad business grammar, but these days bad or awkward grammar in any online solicitation is an alert that the offer might be a scam, particularly one coming from another country and especially if the source is not presenting itself as foreign. It’s one of the subtle signals to be on your guard.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I have not thought about “Business Grammar” before. Recently I have noticed that the noun ‘TASK” has been twisted into a verb with the addition of “ED.” As in, “Mary Doe has been tasked with organizing this project.” I don’t appreciate that grammar anymore than I appreciate “orientating someone to the agency.”

    I think about aphorisms and business “fad-speak“ that don’t mean much, but are technically “thinking outside the box”. Business consultants who are brought into the office from the larger business world, are especially prone to speaking in meaningless phrases. Managers would say they hired these consultants to “bring about change in the environment.” Usually, though, when the consultant said that the manager was the one who needed to change, the consultant was “sidelined,” never to be heard of again.

    Ben, I like your daughter’s insistence on a certain response. It must make her world make sense. Maybe I should start that habit and insist that people respond my way.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. One of the things we butt head over is if I really am mad, and she asks if I’m mad, Course she has to know why. Or why not. And if I really am, often I don’t feel like having to explain why. Or I’m mad but not at her, just at a situation.
      Sort of feels like dissecting a frog by the time I’m done.

      She’s a pretty great kid; don’t get me wrong. She just has her quirks (like we all do) and I put them with a little OCD and lack of comprehension and it’s a handful. I don’t want all this to sound like I’m complaining. (OK, I am, I know that. And I know these are really petty. But still; it’s a situation we deal with at our house so it’s fodder for blogs. 🙂 )

      Just the other night we had a discussion. I asked her to be quiet so I could hear the dialog of the TV show. She was heartily enjoying the show and laughing loudly. And I’m glad she’s enjoying it, but can you laugh a little quieter and maybe not so long? Which in and of itself makes me question my priorities, right?? I could just turn the TV volume up louder.
      Course she has to tell me she is being quiet. And she can’t just “let it go”. I can smile and nod at her but that’s not good enough. She demands a verbal answer which will most likely have to be given twice. She’s got a repetition thing that I don’t know where it came from. Eventually she’ll storm off to her room.
      And Kelly and I laugh; is it worse to try and discuss it? Because the solution will take longer than just putting up with it in the first place.
      And then daughter will come back out and apologize for storming off and we’ll laugh and joke about “zipping her lip” but that only lasts a few minutes. And then I go find something else to do.

      Welcome to a typical evening at our house.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. You can complain here—I get you love her and she has her quirks. Sometimes life just fits too tight and we need someplace to loosen it up!

        I have my days of complaining about how Lou does or does not manage his hearing aids. Right now, due to no fault of his, they are not connecting to Blue Tooth, so he cannot even turn them on, which is way worse. And I am so grateful I am not the First Lady living with #45.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I hear you, Ben, and you have my deepest admiration and empathy. I know that you and Kelly love Amelia just the way she is, but you’d need to be saints to not occasionally want a little respite from some of her behaviors. Some days or moments you just can’t take it anymore.

          I was a regular volunteer for Special Olympics years ago, and now husband volunteers on a regular basis. We’re both so inspired by the joy, determination, love from all the participants. All of them: the athletes, the coaches, the families and friends, that show up again and again. I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced a more supportive, loving, and joyful environment, but it’s challenging at times.

          Even in so-called “normal” relationships personal quirks can get on your last nerve. Husband has a deep seated need for being in control, and that plays out in various ways, more and more frequently, alas, as we get older. His need for being in control is escalating, while my patience with him double checking everything I do is decreasing; we’re on a collision course. This is when a shared sense of humor can really be helpful. I’m hoping my sense of humor doesn’t run out before my patience does.

          Liked by 5 people

        2. Speaking of to much togetherness, it is time for all of us to go back to work and get away from each other for a while. Haha-
          Just tonight Daughter apologized for something that didn’t need apology.
          We acknowledged but also pointed out it didn’t need an apology in the first place. This should be a “teaching moment”, right?
          Didn’t work out that way. Oh well!

          Thanks for all the supportive and fun comments today.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Many years ago went out for lunch with a friend at a posh place. The host asked how many we were expecting, and I said, “Just two, and I’m afraid we don’t have a reservation.” He could have said “No problem”, but instead he said “That’s not an impediment,” which I found very elegant.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. This topic, as you all know, strikes very close to my heart. I am old enough that I remember diagramming sentences in school although I’m sure today’s youth don’t even know what that means. So I’m stuck with all of these rules in my brain that I feel are important but when I stop to think about it, I’m not sure why they are important in a world that is evolving and language is evolving with it. The business grammar that drives me the craziest these days, besides verbing, is the misuse of the reflexive. I can’t help but wince when I hear it and I hear it a lot. I also feel sad that no one wants to use the subjunctive correctly anymore either.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just had an email at the college about an upcoming event.
        They thanked me for helping at the end.

        And now I’m super self conscious about how to reply! Do I simply say “you’re welcome”? I said “Always my pleasure” and then wondered, should I still say “You’re welcome?”

        And I did NOT use any exclamation points! They’re over used in emails.
        And I’ve stopped putting “Thanks” and the end of most basic emails. There’s often nothing to thank a person for unless you’re saying ‘Thanks in Advance’.
        How do we feel about that??
        Because you’re also not supposed to send an email that ONLY says “Thanks”.

        I may have mentioned before of the gentleman I knew who would type full emails in the subject line. If it was just a “Thanks for taking care of that” I could understand as it saved you from opening the email. Read it and delete. But sometimes he ran into two or three sentences which was a problem… but it also made me laugh and I don’t know if he did that to be funny or it was just what he did.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. I sometimes get online ads that are written in English but still fail to make sense to me. There was an ad recently that offered me the opportunity to buy hashing power from crypto currency miners, without making any attempt to explain to me why I would want to. I am still wondering what misguided algorithm targeted me for that one

    Liked by 4 people

  6. It’s been 20 years (!!!!!!) since myself has worked in the business community, and most of my pet peeves have already been mentioned today!!!!!!! Perfect!!! I notice that when someone on TV or radio uses less/fewer incorrectly, etc., I optimize the situation by verbally correcting themselves. When I’m reading, I see often misplaced modifiers, and wonder WHO IS EDITING THIS? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Liked by 3 people

        1. I just snorted my tea up my nose. When I wrote the earlier comment I swear “gesundheit” spelled properly flashed on the screen. But I guess the voice recognition didn’t take when I hit reply.

          Liked by 4 people

        2. Considering how much trouble voice recognition has with you “native” English speakers, I’m glad I haven’t figured out how to use it. Can you imagine? I was having trouble figuring out the Guzon tight comment, so glad you cleared that up. Love Linda’s response. Nice work.

          Liked by 3 people

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