LCI Blog: I Worry When You Say, “No Worries!”

September 19, 2011                                       

David Landis, LCI’s intrepid – and apparently crabby – President, here today with one of my major pet peeves.

Am I the only one to have noticed that the English vocabulary is going to the proverbial dogs?  Informal is one thing, but casual-to-the-point-of-being-incorrect is – well – annoying.

I know I’m old school, but I grew up in a world where we cherished the English language.  Our English teachers in high school were like mini-Gods to me.  I still remember Dr. Berger at Parkway West Senior High School in Ballwin, Missouri.  He taught us to push ourselves and make sure we communicated properly and accurately.  Not only did we diagram sentences, but we read the greats:  Albee, Hemingway, Faulkner, Williams, Orwell, Joyce, and Greene. Do they even teach this in high school these days?

Nowhere is proper English more important than in the field of public relations.  If I hear one more person say, “I’d love to enter the world of public relations because I’m a people person,” I think I’ll scream.  My first retort is:  “How’s your writing?”  When I interview prospective candidates, they don’t even bring their writing samples to the interview (and often don’t have any examples).  In this world of 24/7 technology, I ask: why aren’t you writing a blog to get experience and demonstrate your commitment to the field?

But I digress.

The real issue, I fear, is that we don’t truly know how to communicate. We don’t listen to what we say and think to ourselves, “Is that what I really meant to say?”  We’re taught to “dumb everything down.”  Politicians speak in five-second sound bites.  Celebrities can’t utter a sentence without a cliché.  And have you read newspaper headlines lately?

Case in point:  These days, when say “thank you” to someone, what’s the normal reply?  I’ll tell you:  “No worries.”

No worries?  Really?

Is that what we really want to say?

You have no worries about getting the job done?  Are you delusional?

And, as a neurotic businessman from Highland Park (who now lives the relentless life of a reluctantly technology-driven Californian), please don’t tell me not to worry.  Worrying is in my DNA.  It’s what motivates me.  And sometimes, it’s what gets the job done right.

Unfortunately, you find similar phrases in many cultures.  Spanish speakers will say “de nada” (“Don’t mention it”) and the French say “de rien” (“It’s nothing”).

Wouldn’t a better response be, “You’re welcome?”  Isn’t “No worries” negative?  And isn’t “You’re welcome” gracious?

I say, let’s bring back the phrase “You’re welcome.”  It beautifully captures acknowledgement, respect and good manners, all rolled into one succinct phrase. It’s classic.

“No worries” made me think of some other truly annoying meaningless phrases, as follows:

  • “And, again”. . .if you’re saying “again,” it probably means you’re reiterating what you already said and it’s redundant.  Don’t say it.  (Oops, that was redundant!)
  • “Robust” and “Leading Edge.”  If I hear one more tech CEO say these words about their company or software, I’ll puke.
  • When you ask someone to do something and say “Thank you,” they say “Anytime.”  Really?  You’ll do this round-the-clock whenever I ask you to do it?  Goodie, I need a permanent slave.

And here are some other favorites, courtesy of Matt Wilson, who originally posted this in PR Daily (September 9, 2011):

  •  “Start at the beginning”
  • “We, as human beings”
  • “That said”
  • “At the end of the day”

So, thank you for letting me indulge my inner curmudgeon this week.   I truly appreciate it.
And your response is?

OK, what’s your annoying, cliché-ridden phrase of the moment?  Please email me at: [email protected].

7 thoughts on “LCI Blog: I Worry When You Say, “No Worries!”

  1. David — “Not a problem” has long been one of my pet peeve responses to saying “thank you.” Because I didn’t think it WAS a problem! Great commentary, and a little civility is never too much to ask from one another. So… Thank you.

  2. Pet peeve for me is the phrase, “Hi, how are you?”
    Ok, not just the phrase, but its situational usage as we walk past each other on the street, going in different directions. Really? You want to know how I am? Then why are you still walking?! Here, let me just yell some feelings at you from a block away, then we can both look like maniacs. Why can’t we just say, “Hello”, acknowledge that we have met before, and go on? Or better yet, actually stop and have a conversation if you’re really interested. “Hi, how are you?”, asked in an automatic, conditioned way is so dismissive of our common humanity.
    Thanks for letting more than one Landis get curmudgeonly today. Now get off my lawn!

  3. David, very insightful. It’s funny how much we say common phrases like these without even realizing it. I think you’ve started a movement here at LCI! -Jordana

  4. You are so right. The trick is: can you use all of those phrases in a sentence? This isn’t a writing example, but a life example: How about the people who don’t say “thank you” when you hold the door open for them? Not that I do it to hear the words, but it would be nice to have a minor, random act of kindness recognized. Or maybe they had no worries that I’d shut it on them…

  5. It is amazing we are friends, Davie. I misuse those phrases everyday. I will make corrections immediately, Mr. Curmudgeon grammar policeman!
    My biggest pet peeve is what I hear everyday, even on the news: It is between he and I. Yikes, doesn’t anyone listen in English class anymore?

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