Simanaitis Says

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THE RISE OF “NO PROBLEM”

“HELLO,” SAID Dottie, answering the phone.

“I want to talk to Mike,” said the caller.

“I’m sorry, you’ve got the wrong number.”

“But I said I want to talk with Mike.”

“No, this is a wrong number.”

“Oh, no problem.” Click.

The words “no problem” are taking over our English language.

“No problem.”

I’m then tempted to respond “I didn’t anticipate one.”

On a different, though not unrelated note, I’m reminded of the late Peter Ustinov’s line when people would tell him “Have a nice day.”

He’d respond “Sorry, I have other plans.”

I was ready to get on my little soapbox about “no problem” until I thought about other languages.

It turns out we’re only now catching up to the rest of the world.

In response to “merci,” the French respond “il n’y a pas de quoi,” or “de rien.” The first is loosely “it’s nothing.” The second is precisely this.

In Spanish, the response is “de nada,” the Spaniard’s equivalent of “de rien.” “No problem.”

In Italian, it’s “di niente,” again—you guessed it—“it’s nothing.” They might also say “prego,” our “please” as in “Please don’t make a thing of this.” I.e., “no problem.”

Say “danke” to a German and you may get “Du bist willkommen,” but more likely “bitte,” their “please.”

Even the super-polite Japanese think this way: “Arigato” or its various enhancements of politeness bring the response “Doo itashimashite.” We joke that it sounds like “Don’t touch my moustache,” but its literal meaning is akin to “It’s no big deal.”

“No problem.”

And, besides, what’s so logical about being thanked and then apparently inviting someone in. “You are welcome.” To where? And why?

Thanks for reading this, and I wouldn’t mind at all if you respond “No problem.” ds

6 comments on “THE RISE OF “NO PROBLEM”

  1. Bill Urban
    September 14, 2012

    Being a contrarian I’d like to say thank you for thanking me. And one question: how do you say no problem in Lithuanian ?

    • simanaitissays
      September 14, 2012

      Google says “ne problema.” Another “You’re welcome” listed is the Lithuanian “nera uz ka,” loosely “No for what?” which sounds suspicously like “No problem” again.
      I’d guess that we best be gracious about this. It’s no problem. ds

  2. Tom Tyson
    September 14, 2012

    “No Problem” is one of those expressions that really grates on me.

    In the past when I had someone reporting to me, I always made sure to tell them that I didn’t ever want to hear then replying to a customer with “NP”. I also suggested that saying something like “It was my pleasure” or even a big smile and “You’re quite welcome” would work much better – and from the comments from both our service personel and from customers, it did!

  3. carmacarcounselor
    September 19, 2012

    It’s not enough that we have to accept this expression, but Arnold has made a mistaken Mexicanism almost as prevalent. Of course, anyone with a little high school Spanish knows it’s not “no problemo.” Not to be sexist, but in Spanish all problems are female. It’s “no problema.”

  4. Michael Rubin
    September 20, 2012

    The Australian version “No worries…” has become relatively common, at least here in California. Five years ago people thought it was a cute remark, now they use it themselves. Perhaps it’s an even more relaxed form of “No problem.”

  5. Larry Crane
    December 29, 2012

    Prego!

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This entry was posted on September 14, 2012 by in I Usta be an Editor Y'Know and tagged , , .
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