Recently I had coffee with a friend and over our steaming mugs, she reacted to one of the magazines I mentioned in passing. “Town&Country? I never thought of you as an elitist,” she giggled.
Unphased, I replied with an airy wave of my hand. “If I ever meet an elitist, I feel I should be prepared.”
The next day I happened to be browsing through the November issue of the aforementioned magazine and came across Tara Gallagher’s column, ”Manners & Misdemeanors.” She was fretting over the expression, “You’re Welcome.” Her article began with a brief history of welcome which comes from two Old English words, wil, meaning “desire or pleasure “and cuma, the word for guest. (pg. 104) Put together the phrase means, “One whose coming is pleasing or desirable.” (pg. 104)
Gallagher’s complaint was that people too often use the expression inappropriately. The correct response to “Thank you,” is not “You’re welcome,” she counseled, but silence. Or, if constrained, one is obliged to say “Thank you,” again.
‘…you’re welcome’ can feel like agreeing that thanks was owed, just as thanking someone for a compliment can feel like agreeing with it. (Ibid pg. 104)
As to the phrase “Thank You,” she had more to say, beginning with the pitfalls of bidding goodnight to one’s host or hostess.
They [the guests] reply by thanking me for thanking them, to which I say that I am glad they could come, to which they usually say that they’re glad too, and thank me again, and then I might thank them again for coming. (Ibid pg. 105)
To avoid so much bowing and scraping, Gallagher advises a guest to say “thank you” once and be done with it
Given the complexity of a simple exit, is it any wonder I subscribe to Town&Country? Of course, I’d like to thank Tara Gallagher for her sage advice, but after reading her column, I wouldn’t dare.
(Courtesy of blog.pucp.edu.pe)