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Author Topic: Whatever Became of “Fine!”, “You’re Welcome!”, and “Dead”?  (Read 2102 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: April 25, 2012, 03:30:37 PM »

The author sent in this essay by e-mail today (2012):

Whatever Became of “Fine!”, “You’re Welcome!”, and “Dead”?
By Isabel Escoda, Contributor

Is it just nostalgia, or a wish for some coherence amidst all the linguistic chaos around us? Is it just myself who finds it jarring to have someone (usually young, or even middle-aged) answer my “How are you?” with “Good!” What, I wonder, became of “Fine, thank you” and “Very well, thanks”?  

Listening to conversations today isn’t much different from seeing some of the more bizarre women’s fashions. I won’t even mention the ubiquitous “like” that peppers many people’s dialogues, because it’s really just a space filler (like “ah” or “um”) when one’s brain gets stalled and has to shift gears.  

Does declaring one is “good” come from those modern psychologists who tell us that it’s important to love and mollycoddle ourselves? Does saying one is “good” (even though one may have slandered a friend or purloined something) is used to camouflage a lack of goodness?


Certain adjectives that were popular not too long ago have likewise disappeared. Things are no longer “wonderful” or “terrific” or “great.”  They’re all equally “awesome.” Major and minor matters fall under the awesome umbrella these days—whether it’s gazing at the majestic Alps, commenting on a chef’s special dish, or viewing a friend’s new frock. The Alps may indeed be awesome, but a meal would surely be only wonderful and the dress just lovely. But not anymore.

Then there’s “huge,” which is everywhere.  “It made a huge impact,” “The bonus made a huge difference in her life,” “She’s a huge fan of Meryl Streep” etc.  “Immense,” “tremendous,” “enormous” have dropped by the wayside.

The clause “You’re welcome!” has also gone with the wind. Expressing gratitude to a benefactor used to be met with a reply denoting gladness at giving. Now the response is “No problem,” which I find bewildering.  How did a problem enter the picture when it was a gift that was being made? Is it because the gift did not bankrupt the benefactor, or is it because the favor did not badly hinder the giver?

Strangely, in radio and TV interviews, after someone is thanked for letting the interviewer ask him questions and get his opinions, the interviewee usually says “Thank you” back. Why, I ask myself, should one thank someone who has picked your brains, when it’s you who has done the questioner a favor? I find the old fashioned “My pleasure” quite pleasing even if a simple “You’re welcome!” should do. Even “not at all” would be acceptable.

Long ago, parting wishes involved saying a simple “Good-bye,” which we know is short for “God be with you.” Probably because today’s world is such a dangerous place, admonishing someone to “Take care!” is of utmost importance, even if one is at home or in a church. Saying a mere “Good-bye” is apparently thought insufficient if one wants to be seen as a caring person.  

The American clause “Have a good day” is so ubiquitous, it’s the ultimate cliché. Yet I find it rather sweet since as one saunters on one’s way through the day, it brings visions of a smooth road ahead full of flowering plants and fruits to be picked and smiling friends handing out gifts and bosses dispensing money.

Then there’s the injunction “Enjoy!” said by waiters at restaurants after laying the meal at your table. It’s like an order, which is why I find it irritating, especially if the food isn’t all that great.


Finally, what I find really curious is the aversion to the words “die,” “dead,” and “death.”  Perhaps it’s because many of us are like Woody Allen who famously said that he wasn’t afraid of death—he just didn’t want to be around when it happened! Very often today, when folks talk about someone who died,  most of them like to say he “passed away” or she “passed on.” Occasionally I’d even hear “She passed,” making me wonder if she was playing bridge and didn’t have the right cards when her turn came. A simple “He died” is apparently not good enough because it’s too graphic. Folks apparently prefer to produce a vision of a soul going through the pearly gates en route to meeting one’s maker.

Like a tide that sweeps over the generations, language undergoes changes over the years and leaves the hapless traveler in strange new terrain. This is because, as the experts tell us, English is a “living language” that discards and acquires bits and pieces of vocabulary to distinguish it from the dead languages. But to folks like me who wonder at the bewilderingly weird dialogues swirling around me, the new words and phrases can be discombobulating. That’s because I like my English language plain, sane, and coherent. Because when it turns weird and incomprehensible, it’s rather like having a comfortable old carpet being pulled out from under one when one wasn’t paying attention.  

So perhaps one should just “Go with the flow” and enjoy the gibberish now and then so as to be seen as “cool” (if I may be allowed to borrow those clichés)!
« Last Edit: December 30, 2017, 11:57:11 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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