Monday, April 28, 2008

Saying It Like It Is

I get it that the English language is a living, changing phenomenon. A dictionary purchased today contains a lot more words than the dictionary I used in high school. For example, that dictionary does not contain the word internet. It goes from internecine (extremely destructive to both sides) to interplanetary (between planets). I know the word internet isn't in my high school "Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language" because I just looked it up in that dog-earned, stiff paged paperback brittle from age and use. That old dictionary of mine, always on my desk, is impotent testament to the carnage wrought on the English language throughout the years.
Not even the most current, most complete dictionary, however, can corral and tame some of the inexplicable directions this living, changing language travels. Must it go to places of nonsense just because popular usage guides it in that direction? Has a language no internal mechanism with which to say "Stop it. Don't even speak me anymore! You are corrupting me into senseless drivel!" Apparently not for if it could it surely would.
I refer specifically to the phrase which has replaced "You're welcome." "Thank you," back in the days when words mattered, was followed by, "You're welcome." Not so, these days. "You're welcome," has morphed (another word not in my Webster's American....) into the inexplicable and unforgivable, "No problem." What kind of a vacuous response is that? I ask this rhetorically because even the remote possibility of an answer is unfathomable.
In the cafe the food server brings me the meal I ordered and for which I shall pay. I say, "Thank you." The server responds, "No problem." I could see quite clearly that there had been no problem. I was sitting mere inches from the kitchen. Events seemed to transpire from my order to the arrival of the food without incident.
This response has become ubiquitous to the point that I have stopped thanking people for anything because I can no longer tolerate that vapid reply.
If this type of blatant abuse of the English (American according to my dictionary) language continues, the next thing that will happen is that people will start truthfully answering me when I say, "Hi. How are you?". When that happens society will no longer be able to function because we will all be compelled to sit and listen to how people are doing. The only joy in that scenario is that when they thank us for listening, we can lie through our collective teeth and reply, "No problem."

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