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‘No worries’ – the new response to thanks

Posted on 1 September 2009 | 12:09pm

Out for a longish run along Regent’s Park canal this morning, I found myself saying ‘thank you’ on four different occasions – twice when being waved forward by oncoming cyclists at those slow-down safety gate things, once when a couple walking side by side went into single file to allow me to pass, and once when buying a bottle of water at a shop near Primrose Hill.

This is not however a blog to inform you of my inherent politeness, which you probably take for granted anyway. It is to draw attention to what may be a shift in the use of language. Because of the four who were on the receiving end of my thanks, three replied with the words ‘no worries.’

It is always good to have things to think about when out running – I’m training for the Great North Run – and once the third ‘no worries’ was sounded, I had a nice, unexpected train of thought to pursue.

It is a phrase I have heard most often in Australia, but none of my three respondents had a trace of Antipodean in their looks or accents. Scotland is another place where you hear a variant ‘nae worries,’ itself a variant of ‘nae bother.’ Yet nor were any of them Scots, so far as I could tell.

I freely accept none of this is scientific, but I like to think I am quite good at detecting shifts and I think there is a linguistic shift going on, with ‘no worries’ taking over from ‘not at all,’ the somewhat warmer ‘my pleasure’ or, perhaps the most common response to thanks, silence, with or without a smile. As for the reason, it is probably rooted somewhere in a piece of popular culture I am unfamiliar with. Perhaps viewers of Aussie soaps can help? is there a comedian I don’t know of who has made the phrase his or her own?

There must be someone inside the Conservative Party’s CR department (Cultural Resonance) who has the answer for me. The same guy who got Chris Grayling to pretend he sits in front of the telly watching episode after episode of The Wire. The one who thinks the public will be impressed by saying a government run by Dave and George will be like something out of The West Wing.

‘I’d like to cut rather more from the public services budget than originally intended, David.’

‘No worries, George.’

‘Thank you.’

‘No worries.’

It’s a nice phrase. I may start to use it myself. But I bet Dave beats me to it. The Conservative Party’s FP department (Finger on the Pulse) will see to that.

Meanwhile, only one and a half cheers for the work of his BW (bandwagon) department, which sits above the other two in the Tory HQ pecking order. Getting aboard the anti-release of the Lockerbie bomber bandwagon was a pretty obvious move, but Dave appears to be jumping a bit late. Are his BW people not talking to his FP people? So not West Wing, as CR could tell him.

  • Liam R

    And I suppose you weren’t guilty of instructing Tony Blair to say similar things? For example, when Blair was asked what his favourite song was in an interview – he mentioned the number one at the time.

    Pot calling the kettle black?

  • Colin Morley

    It’s gone international, Alistair. The common response to “merci” here in France has become “pas de soucis” a direct translation from the Oz!

  • Hal S

    You are onto something … I said exactly the same thing in a restuarant in Chswick the other night with my girlfriend. Pur waitress was a British girl, probably a student, pretty middle class kind of girl, and she said ‘no worries’ as a response to virtually everything we said. I am assuming this is the Neighbouts effect

  • Geoirge Hart

    Agree Cameron is a bandwagoner, but equally I agree wuth his statement on Libya that regardless of the position with the Scottish executive, Gordon Brown should have stated clearly what his view was. Sometimes leadership means no more or no less than saying what your view is, even if ultimately a decision is for someone else

  • Jane A

    I always say “You’re welcome.” I now feel ancient, borderline Medieval. Then again, I don’t do soap operas so am probably out of many many loops. The Aussie phrase that branch of my family use most is always “she’ll be right”, which gets applied to just about anything.

  • gary Enefer

    I spent time living with Aussies – great times – and they used to say

    ”No wuckin forries,mate”

    Just a note on the Japanese Election – the new allowance for young people was a real vote winner – Alastair Darling to take note.

  • Ann

    I now feel abit aged, well I am, saying – you’re welcome or it’s my pleasure, but daughter says no worries as does granddaughter, BUT most you hold a door open for etc., just expect it, and some of the youngsters are downright rude. Well that’s enough of my moan, good luck with your training.
    Remember, pace yourself.

  • Dick the Prick

    You can take the man out of Burnley … this did the rounds 10 years back, now it’s just a smile.

  • Yanker

    I find myself responding to almost everything with “No problem.” here in the US.