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dear prudence

“Dear Prudence,
Am I being prickly, or do I have a valid complaint? It drives me absolutely batty when I thank a waiter, sales clerk, or other paid service person and the response is ‘no problem.’ I paid you to bring me my meal or find those shoes in my size, and the fact that it was or wasn’t a problem is of no interest to me. A few times I’ve actually responded that ‘I don’t really care if it was a problem or not,’ which I know was wrong, but I was aflame with ire and it just came out. As for myself, whenever I am thanked, I always respond with, ‘You’re welcome,’ ‘I’m happy to help,’ or ‘My pleasure.’ Is it too much to ask that others do the same?

?David M.

Dear Dave,
You have come to the right place. Prudie, herself, is a bit of a churl about that ‘No problem’ business. It has, unfortunately, crept into the language and does not seem about to be displaced. Some phrases take hold and then go on to lose all meaning. Another regrettable example is the phrase ‘soul mate’ which has become the supposed ultimate accolade to a spouse, fiancee, what have you. ‘No problem’ is meant to be polite. That is, people who say it are not trying to be annoying, they are just linguistic sheep. In a hotel once, the music from a neighboring room was way too loud, and Prudie called the desk to ask them to please inform the offender. The answer of course was, ‘No problem.’ When there were no results, and Prudie called back to repeat the request, again there was the mindless ‘No problem.’ With exactly your feeling of ‘aaarrrgh,’ Prudie’s response was, ‘Apparently you are mistaken, because it is proving to be a problem.’

?Prudie, outspokenly”

What’s funny is I say no problem pretty often. I never thought about how it could be negative. I will try and stop.

1 Response to “dear prudence”


  • Yeah, I suffer from that misuse of a phrase problem too. “No problem” is downright rude when used in the wrong context, like a waiter or an airline flight attendant saying it. They get paid for their service. Maybe we need electric shock therapy for that phrase. šŸ˜‰

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