By Geoffrey Rowan
TORONTO, Nov. 15, 2011 — Whatever happened to saying what you mean?
I mean literally, using words that match the idea you are trying to communicate? We’ve lost it, and this failing of our ability to say what we mean signals the dimming of our intellectual light, as if somewhere Ol’ Sparky was sucking all the juice to deliver a searing jolt to the collective seat of humanity’s pants. It is the end of times. When? We’re already both-feet-out onto a PAM-slick playground slide that empties into a sub-basement of fire, brimstone, zombies, rabid dingoes and machete-wielding, pink-haired trolls. We are done.
What am I saying? One of the simplest, most civilized, humanity-affirming transactions between people is the expression of appreciation for some kindness done – the “thank you.
Somebody holds the door for you, gives you a kidney, buys you a drink or releases you from a leg-hold trap and you say: “thank you.”
That’s nice, but wait. The interaction isn’t finished.
If you’re an asshole, you might respond: “Yeah, that was pretty great of me. I guess you really owe me now.”
But most of us are socialized — and maybe we even want — to respond in a way that frees the beneficiary from any sense of obligation. “You’re welcome.”
It’s dead simple. But something has gone wrong. Maybe the switch from NTSC standard analog television signals to digital signals has mushified a piece of our brains. Maybe there was some piece of subliminal coding in a section of the Dr. Spock book we were all raised on. Maybe hockey really has gotten too fast.
Whatever the cause, that simplest and most civilizing of human transactions has been perverted, no less than any seven-year-old-girl being glossed and rouged by her stage momma.
How so? Take a look at this now ubiquitous interaction.
I recognize that some people think “no problem” is synonymous with “you’re welcome,” but it’s not. It’s synonymous with the rapid decline of human civilization into a state of scab-picking, flesh-eating zombiehood.
What are you saying when you are saying no problem? That “it is not a problem to help you?” That if it required any real effort I wouldn’t be doing this but since it doesn’t, I’ll do it?
A thoughtful response to “Thank you for your kindness” is “I’m glad to be able to help you,” or “it’s my pleasure,” or “you are welcome” to that kindness.
But “you bet?” I bet what? I bet that you will help me if I am ever in need? If that’s what it’s short for, that’s a great sentiment.
“Hey, for you, it’s money in the bank. Any time.” That’s nice. The words mean something.
Or just: “Any time.” That is also an acceptable response in a world where we are trying to stave off pending un-deadness.
But “Uh Huh?”
Are you kidding? Are you such a bilious slacker that you cannot even expend the energy to form a word? Are you already so devoid of humanity that all you can do is belch some air over your vocal chords in a gaseous approximation of a response?
No! Fight for your humanity. It took us millions of years to evolve into sentient creatures capable of expressing ourselves with precise vocalizations that represent sophisticated thoughts. (Yes, it did.) Fight for your right to form words. Fight to prevent de-evolution and the stupefying of the species. Fight for the future of mankind.
Use your words. Say “you’re welcome.”