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.’
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.