English language Usage

You’re welcome!

Q: The next time you appear on the Leonard Lopate Show, I wish you would address the unfortunate demise of “You’re welcome.” No one uses it anymore. The automatic reply to “Thank you” is now “Thank you!” Am I the only one who didn’t get the memo? Is it an affront to say “You’re welcome?”

A: Listeners have e-mailed me before to suggest that when Leonard thanks me at the end of my appearance I should respond with “You’re welcome” instead of my usual “Thank you!” Why do I thank him back? Am I afraid that if I don’t I’ll be guilty of gratitude aversion? What goes on here?

In truth, I think the explanation is diffidence or plain modesty. When someone thanks me for being his guest, and I reply, “You’re welcome,” I’m granting that yes, indeed, my presence is rather a gift. He is quite right to thank me for showing up.

By saying “Thank you,” on the other hand, I’m implying that the honor is all mine, and that I’m in his debt, not the other way around.

That’s my explanation, but it’s really no excuse. The traditional reply is a gracious “You’re welcome.” And, by golly, I’ll say it next time. Thank you!

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