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The Problem With 'No Problem'

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Me: Thanks.

You: No Problem.

Hmm. Is it really no problem? I wonder.

I can't help it. I'm a word girl. And a tad insecure, in a lovable (I hope) if irritating George Costanza way.

So when a server delivers me a boulevardier and I beam gratitude and he answers no problem, I'm curious--did the bartender give him grief? Does he hate his place of employ, where customers try too hard with their vintage-y hipster outfits (guilty) and order retro drinks with French names?

No problem implies there is, indeed, a problem. Taken literally, it means perhaps your effort didn't pain you this time, but it could have, if you hadn't eaten your Wheaties that morning or if you didn't like the way I asked or the way I part my hair to the side, or if, in general, you are bitter and small and can't stand being put upon.

Methinks we need to go back to charm school.

No problem--two negative words strung together. Sort of like piss off, but not quite as scatological.

Whatever happened to "you're welcome"? It's not clever or trendy, but it stands planets above no problem. You are welcome. I welcome the chance to do you a solid.

We could take this a step further and go crazy with an old-fashioned bow or gracious head nod or even a thank you in return, which says: I am indebted for the chance to offer you a kindness.

When I was a college junior, I studied in London for a chilly semester, living with a family whose mama answered my thanks with, get this: "Pleasure, treasure."

I loved that.

Emma Lucas would run my bath in the morning, struggling to light the temperamental hot water heater's pilot and get things going before I woke up. She knew how Americans are fond of their daily washings. That was my alarm clock: the sound of Emma's pilot light button battle.

Thank you, Emma, to the moon and back.

Pleasure, treasure.

And so, thousands of miles from home, I felt like a treasure, a jewel--not just blessed but loved.

They do words better in Britain--and the accent doesn't hurt. I haven't been there in years. I worry no problem has seeped across the pond.

Still, I can't quite pull off pleasure, treasure, except maybe with my kids. I usually stick to plain old YW. But there are alternatives that express your wholehearted commitment to help:

You got it.

Not at all.

Of course.

Sure.

You bet.

Certainly.

Any time.

Happy to.

My pleasure or with pleasure (Cheers to Chik-fil-A for getting this right. Now if you'd kindly remove the MSG from your recipes, please)

On the other hand, there are no problem's evil look-alikes:

Not a problem.

No worries.

Don't sweat it. (I wasn't.)

All of the above have no place in the business realm. At any type of job interview. Or from the lips of a concierge at, say, the Ritz-Carlton. Would you say no problem to your ailing grandmother after helping her cross the street? If you did, she might wop you with her handbag.

You can thank me later for warning you.

It's my pleasure.