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Phatic Expressions: Why “No Problem” Can Seem Rude



The title of Tom Scott's latest video drew me in because, at my age, I am jarred when someone responds to "Thank you" with "No problem." Wait, you just gave me change for a purchase. Was there ever a question of it being a problem? But then I think, hey, they are just trying to be polite. It's a fairly new "phatic expression," as Scott explains. Phatic expressions are known and understood by people who use them, even though they have no literal meaning at all. Across cultures and age groups, they can be totally confusing or even seem rude. The best thing to do is just go with it.  


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I think you're misinterpreting the "no problem" -- it's the person saying that there's no need to thank them, that it was no trouble (no problem) for them to do what they did for you.
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Funny this is mentioned because I really thought it was just me. "No problem" stroke me as a rude response a couple of times , but mainly as of late. I also try to roll with it but I feel like there a little bit of gaslighting involved, as the responder assumes I actually had a problem and declares that there is none. There's also a bit of distancing involved. All in all, it's not the nicest response.
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Well, I just fell down the Tom Scott rabbit hole for a while! (And it was fascinating, even though I'm a life-long lover of words and not much was a surprise.) But, funny, I don't find "No problem" a problem. "You're welcome" is traditional but it doesn't make any more sense -- it's a bit over the top response when you think about it. I mean, it doesn't even make much sense when you try to use a dictionary definition of "welcome" -- and as a figurative one, it's kind of silly -- seriously, just try. "No problem" is more or less equivalent of the Spanish "de nada" -- "It was nothing." What surprised me more is the spread of the previously Australian-centered, "No worries." I was used to it because of an Australian daughter-in-law but in the last few years, I've been hearing it more and more in the US.
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