Why ‘No Problem’ Presents a Conversational Problem

Why “No Problem” Can Seem Rude

In his newly rebooted series Language Files the impressively linguistically educated Tom Scott talks about phatic expressions – those brief, conversational responses used in everyday life. While these expressions are the equivalent of verbal handshakes, they always changing causing some phatic expressions to not translate properly through generational gaps.

It’s now usual to reply to ”thank you” with “no problem.” But that’s a bit contentious because for some, usually older, folks “no problem” is not phatic and it’s impolite: it should be “you’re welcome” instead, which, to many younger folks, also sounds impolite! We’re going to have these generational differences as long as language continues to change. So why do we bother with phatic expressions at all?

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.