Who starts these things? Instead of “happy to be of service” or “my pleasure,” we are now subjected to the negative angle: “not a problem.”
Here’s a sample situation, set in a local restaurant:
Me: Could you please get me a glass of water?
Waitress: Not a problem.
She returns with the non-problematical water and asks, “Have you guys decided yet?”
Me (gesturing toward my companion): In case you hadn’t noticed, she is not a guy. She’ll have the puu puu platter and I’d like the ribeye steak, rare, please.
Same waitress: Not a problem.
I wonder whether on some days it really is a problem and I just got lucky dealing with her on one of her rare good days.
And why do we need a new way to say “Oh, my god!” every ten years or so? In the 90s, it was a pauseless “Ohmygod!” Before that, it was “Oh…my…god!” In this decade, we have to pause and run the last two words together: “Oh——mygod!” with the last syllable uttered in a lower tone than its predecessor. Who started this? I need to know. Did it emanate from some piece of cinematic fluff seen by our Entertainment Tonight generation? Did some celebredork like Cameron Diaz say it that way, and having been spoken thus, it had to be?
“Cool” seems to have survived through many generations. I think it is a permanent fixture in the language now, although Merriam-Webster still considers it slang. It won’t go the way of “neat”, “neat-o”, “nifty”, “rad”, “bad”, “bitchin'”, “awesome,” and “killer”. It is still OK for any generation to say “cool.”
One particularly annoying current vogue affectation is ending one’s sentences with “so—“. This is a way of terminating a run-on sentence without a period while admitting the possibility of further running on. “So, like, I was hanging out with Shaniqua and Keshawn and like we decided to go to the movies but the movie sucked which we shoulda known because it got bad reviews, so—” So what? So nothing. Does this represent a tacit desire to hold the floor, or is it that the never-ending sentence must never end and “so—” is injected to pause while transitioning to the next inane subject of the stream of consciousness—idiopathic nattering?
Interestingly enough, I have heard people over 18 actually replacing “he said…” with “he was like…”. I mean way over 18. If this one ever becomes a part of the language, we’re all in deep, deep shit.
When that day comes, I’ll be like, “Oh——mygod! This is sooooo not funny. Like I want to thank you for totally screwing up the language and putting this in your Merriam-Webster dictionary and like actually legitimizing it, so—”
They’ll be like, “Not a problem.”
2018 update: We’re in deep, deep shit!
douglas preston says
I worked for several years at a very reputable company in the customer service business. All of the reps were instructed NEVER to reply to the customer with a “no problem.” Alas, I also now hear this all of the time. Saying “no problem” to a customer’s request implies that there is, in fact, a problem!
Like, that’s just not cool.