Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Say Thank You

The other day, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Savage Love. If you haven't ever listened to it, you can start now. It's the out loud version of the sex advice column by Dan Savage. As I write this, he's got 99 in the can. So you can listen for hours and hours before you have to wait for new ones. He's a sex advice columnist. He's very entertaining. But my point is...

When he talks to people, he often says, "Try that and call us back to let us know what happened." Some one wrote and asked why he didn't give updates on the calls. He said it was because people rarely call back. He said people almost never call to say thank you. Someone wrote him a few months ago and Dan went out of his way, even calling in an expert, to give really good advice and the person never even wrote to say thank you.

As I listened, I said, "Yeah!"

Now, I'm not one to complain. I like to help when I can. And I don't get contacted that often for advice, but I have had a good handful of emails from people asking about the name of my rolfer, a good office supply store, and other local resources in Amsterdam. I gladly give or find the information requested and people never write me back to say thank you. You'd think they could just hit Reply and say, "thx!"

I write this not because I feel like I need a pat on the back for helping out a fellow person, but because I think that the world is in a strange place when people can't just say thank you even to the world-renowned Dan Savage.

I had to explain the politics of saying please and thank you to a student today. Native English speakers (according to a book I read) say please and thank you more than other people (the Dutch, for instance). But it's completely possible to go overboard.

Still, as a rule I think it's a good thing to say thank you. It's so ingrained in my head. My parents were really old school about that. And I appreciate that about them.


Anonymous said...

Do English speakers really say "please" more than the Dutch? I only speak a bit of Dutch (and live in USA but have friends there) and it seems everyone is always saying "alsjeblieft" constantly! :-))

Anonymous said...


They say "alsjeblieft" whenever they hand anything to anyone. It's just a formula.

On the other hand, there are other ways of making polite requests ("mag ik...", using "graag") so the absence of a.u.b. doesn't necessarily imply rudeness.

I answer questions about English on a BBC message board. As a matter of habit I delete threads from my list if they're inactive for two weeks. There are generally at least 20 that have sat on 2 messages for that 2 weeks. Those two messages are the original question and my answer. How hard would it be, as Andy asked, to hit "Reply" and type "Thank-you"?

I mean, you don't do it to be thanked, but still...

Other posters will religiously post a thank-you in every thread they've started. Since the BBC impose a 3 minute minimum interval between postings, this can take a while, but they still do it.