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April 29, 2012

Just Say No (Or Not)

There are many ways of saying "no" in English. And the word "no" is used in many ways that...

...are not inherently negative.

Here is one example. The traditional American response to “thank you” is “you’re welcome.” These days, young people in particular, another term has become common. If I thank a waiter for bringing me water, he will probably respond “no problem” instead of “you’re welcome.”

Certainly my request for a glass of water should not make a problem for the waiter. When I thank the waiter, he does not need to re-assure me that I have not caused a “problem” for him. Bringing customers water and food is his job!

Using newer expressions like “no problem” sounds kind of hip and modern, and is certainly popular, especially among young people, but realize that these phrases are slang and certainly not appropriate for business or professional use. They may include subtle meanings that you do not intend, or may even be contrary to your intention. “You’re welcome” is tried and true, and works for everyone, from your family to the queen of England. If you feel especially enthusiastic, you can say “You’re very welcome!”

The word “no” is very powerful. I try not to use it in friendly, casual speech. As the ultimate expression of negation the word "no" powerfully impacts our subconscious. You can prove this to yourself easily. Simply say the words "no" and "yes" out loud a few times. Of course yes sounds positive and no sounds negative. Think about it. Do you want to sound negative or positive? Even though “no problem” attempts to give a positive impression, having the word "no" embedded in it obscures any positive message.

Have any words or phrases you love - or love to hate? Let us know your favorites. I also welcome you to send us any relevant links or other resources that you think any teachers, students or even just regular people might find interesting or useful.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, USA and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle, WA, USA). And, as much as Morf loves writing this blog, he is always open to other opportunities either blogging or teaching. You can contact him at mmorf@mail.com.

Posted by mmorf at April 29, 2012 10:27 PM


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