You’re welcome. No really, you’re welcome.

Whatever happened to “you’re welcome”? No, I’m not complaining that people aren’t polite anymore, far from it. But “you’re welcome” as a reply to “thank you” seems to be falling rapidly out of use. Instead, I hear people replying to “thank you” with… “thank you”. Huh?

I hear it all the time. I listen to a lot of radio shows and podcasts with interviews. At the end of every chat, the host says “Alice, thank you for speaking with us” and Alice usually replies “thank you.” My unscientific estimate is that this happens 80-90% of the time. The rest of the replies are almost usually some variant of “it’s been a pleasure”. But I rarely hear “you’re welcome”.

While I have various gripes about how Americans use the language (such as using “less” when “fewer” is called for), this one seems more perplexing than anything else. Saying “you’re welcome” hardly seems controversial, but clearly this has been a trend for some time. Back in 2004 I remember listening to Terry Gross interview former NPR host Bob Edwards on Fresh Air. At the end of the talk, Gross thanked Edwards for coming, and he replied “You’re welcome,” and after a pause he added “I’ve never liked it when people answer ‘thank you’ with ‘thank you.’ ”

Anyway, so you are welcome. Really.


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