KATHLEEN PARKER: ‘No problem’ wallows in meaninglessness

By Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON – ’Tis the season when columnists write mea culpas, make predictions and list their resolutions.
Since my culpas are too vast for this tiny space, my predictions best in retrospect and my resolutions inevitably ignored, I thought I’d list a few resolutions for the rest of the world. These, too, are likely to be ignored, but I’ll feel better getting a few things off my chest.
Herewith, what annoys me most:
Can we please shelve this awful word as used by adults to refer to others? What happened to “attractive” or “fascinating”? If you’re 18 or younger, Nothing is less attractive than adult men and women appraising others as “hot” (or not) at a certain age, which should be about the time one is old enough to vote.
In a related matter, let’s not …
Man up.
How many times during recent elections have we heard candidates refer to others’ need to “man up”? This was especially jarring when women used the term to refer to their male opponents, as when Nevada Republican Sharron Angle told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to man up during a debate.
Sarah Palin, who wasn’t running for anything, nevertheless questioned President Obama’s manhood, saying that Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, thanks to her tough immigration bill, “has the cojones that our president does not have.” Classy.
And little wonder young Americans end all their sentences with question marks. No list would be complete without mention of the annoying habit of the young to state declarative sentences as queries.
Simple grammar: A declarative statement ends with a period.
“So, I ran into Jeff? And he was, like, wow, you cut your hair? And I was, like, I know, right?”
The only alternative to the persistent query is the occasional exclamation: “OMG. He is so hot!”
I have no idea what the statement-question reveals, but it seems to be connected to some desire to not be judgmental. As in, I am so totally not, like, committed to anything that could possibly be construed as slightly offensive to anyone anywhere that I will say even obviously true things so as to indicate my willingness to be persuaded, like, otherwise?
No problem.
Which is, I promise, my last nit. “No problem” seems now to be the customary reply to “thank you.” As opposed to the previously accepted “You’re welcome” or “My pleasure.”
“Thanks so much for the excellent service,” I say to the waiter. “No problem,” he says.
What does this mean? That it wasn’t all that much trouble? Or, that service is a problem to be solved?
Doing something for someone in the line of duty or out of the goodness of one’s heart is not a problem solved. It is a gift, a gesture, a sentiment. And when someone expresses gratitude for that gesture, it is customary to acknowledge that you were happy to extend the pleasure, not that it wasn’t too bad for you.
Which is to say, you’re welcome.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

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