We don’t know about you, but there are some words and phrases that younger generations use that get on our baby boomer nerves! Like, when did just about everything that’s merely ordinary instead become so “awesome.” And isn’t a “dude” someone who’s actually cool, rather than someone who’s actually … well, actually just alive? Recently retired writer and editor Alan Paul of Hawthorne, New Jersey, has a problem with one phrase in particular, and here at BoomerCafé, we’re on his side!
While dining recently at the local Grand Lux Cafe, Tiffany, the server, brought me a glass of warm, cloudy water. I said, “Thank you,” and she replied, “No problem.”
Here’s the problem with no problem: If the simple and generally required act of the server bringing the customer a glass of water could even remotely be construed a potential problem, Tiffany has no earthly right earning her livelihood as a server! Tiffany need not say “No problem” after having served me something. Problem should not even be a topic of conversation; there is no problem, thus the phrase need not be uttered at all.
Are there any situations in which No problem would be an acceptable response to Thank you? I can think of only a couple.
Say, for example, that Superman has just spied a potential global-extinction-causing event in the form of a meteor, roughly the size of Rhode Island, which is hurtling toward the planet. Superman speeds off to deflect the meteor from Earth, thereby saving billions of living creatures and earning the everlasting love of Lois Lane.
Then, if Lois Lane were to say, “Thank you, Superman” at the conclusion of his heroic deed, Superman could rightfully say, “No Problem, Lois.” The reason that his response is accurate is two-fold: 1. The Rhode Island-sized meteor hurtling toward Earth represented a genuine problem; and, 2. Averting global disaster was literally no problem for Superman, because he, of course, possesses powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.
Let’s say that while vacationing in Japan you stop for lunch at the local Grand Lux Sushi Shop. At the precise moment that you begin to devour a hunk of Unagi Nigiri, there is an otherworldly bellow emanating from the street. You rush outside along with other patrons at the exact moment that Godzilla, who has also decided to stop for lunch at Grand Lux Sushi, is scarfing down People Rolls by the handful. But just as Godzilla reaches for you, you reflexively grab onto the arm of some Asian gentleman with a shock of bright red-orange hair who is standing next to you. So Godzilla, momentarily startled, reaches instead for the family-of-four vacationing from the Netherlands.
When it is clear that the danger has passed, you turn to the red-orange-haired gentleman upon whose arm you are still hanging and say, “Thank you!” He correctly responds with the Japanese equivalent of “No problem.” His “No problem” is correct in this instance because the flame-haired gentleman did virtually nothing to save you, with the possible exception of allowing you to latch onto his arm. But because of that, Godzilla thought better of lunching on you and that’s good enough.
So, allow me to propose a temporary and only partial solution to this near-conundrum. When it comes to restaurants, where apparently so many problems are no problem, can we agree to change the word “Tip,” which everyone knows stands for the phrase “To insure promptness,” to something more appropriate in today’s linguistic climate. If we simply change Tip to Tinp, Tiffany can now be secure in the notion that her Tinp, which translates to, “To insure no problem,” has taken care, once and possibly for all, of the no-problem problem.