Phrase rage

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Fans of "word rage" may be interested in the collection of responses that Stanley Fish got to his call for "phrases and announcements that make your heart sink and make you want to commit mayhem" ("And the Winner: 'No Problem'", 11/23/2009).  The resulting collection is a bit different from the usual exercise in meta-linguistic naming and shaming, since in  his selected examples, it's generally the (insincerity or offensiveness of the) content that sets people off, not the (alleged) ungrammaticality, modishness, illogicality, or redundancy of the form.

In any case, I was gratified to see that the NYT's Opinionator column has instituted a category of "Peeves", though so far the only entries are Fish's call and response.

True to form, Fish's original call netted 1,122 comments — and many of these are more conventional linguistic peeves that we've discussed in earlier posts, like "went missing" (discussed in June 2004), "going forward" (discussed recently), “Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received”, etc.

As I've noted before, it's too bad that the profession of linguistics can't channel a bit of this repressed enthusiasm for linguistic analysis in better-informed (if not more productive) directions.


  1. slobone said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

    Most people can't handle anything more complicated than good/bad, and not just in linguistics. So it's Palin good/Obama bad or vice versa, margarine good/butter bad, split infinitive bad, etc. K-12 English teachers tend to reinforce this because they just don't have time for nuance.

  2. Peter Harvey said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

    Slobone is dead right. By far the most important rule that I have ever learnt for understanding any circumstance of life on this earth is this: But it's actually more complicated than that.

  3. Faldone said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

    I just love it when people get all bent out of shape because someone else's idea of being polite doesn't match theirs.

  4. sls said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 5:10 pm

    “It’s all good.” I consider this phrase to be the evil offspring of “Have a nice day.”

    I am always tempted to reply, “No, it isn’t,” and “Make me!” or much cruder words to that effect.

    — Posted by Geoff from Ohio

    Wow. And I had always interpreted "have a nice day" to be optative, not imperative. Remind me never to wish Geoff from Ohio a happy birthday, anniversary, or new year. Or maybe I should carry a syringe of amusing psychoactives, so that I might comply with his request.

  5. Z. D. Smith said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 5:49 pm

    I am always confused by the ire that I see towards 'no problem'. I've heard that rationale before; that it somehow implies that there actually IS a problem, or that there would be if the speaker didn't dispense with it by saying so. As if, when I said 'You're welcome', my interlocutor should take that to mean that there was a question that they were actually unwelcome.

    In all it's particular notion that infects quite a bit of linguistic prescriptivism; people so-called applying deep analytical logic to one idiomatic (or simply pragmatic) construction, while ignoring the sea of other constructions and linguistic conventions that would also—if this brand of half-logic was really what was called for—be proscribed. Of course even the notion that the reason that 'No problem' is objectionable is because defies some logic is so far afield as to maybe even be bad-faith.

  6. rpsms said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 5:59 pm

    I find that many people will go to great lengths to find fault with things. I don't think it is out of spite, but rather boredom. An animated, emotion fueled rant is often more interesting in the telling and anger and negativity is a cheap emotion to convey artistically. Angst sells.

  7. rpsms said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

    edit "is a" to "are" etc.

  8. Faldone said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 6:09 pm

    "You're welcome"?! I'm welcome when I stand outside the door and you invite me in! Not when I'm in, seated, served my food, and have asked you to rectify an error that is no fault of yours. The dishwasher didn't do a good job washing the fork and the busboy didn't reject it when he set the table. It's no fault of yours that I saddle you with the problem of getting me a new fork when you have seven other tables to tend to! I'm absolutely incensed that you dare to say "You're welcome" when I thank you. The proper response, young lady, is "No problem."

  9. Boris said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 6:26 pm

    Is the "welcome" in "you are welcome" the same meaning of the word as "welcome" alone? There is a store we pass every week that has a sign "You are always welcome". I think the "welcome" there is meant in the non-"you are welcome" sense, but in the standalone sense, but I can't help but think the sign means "If we don't say 'you are welcome' when you thank us, it's because of this sign that already did that". Am I alone in this?

  10. Spell Me Jeff said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

    I don't even know what "You're welcome" really means, if indeed it means anything. "Welcome" in what sense? The nearest dictionary to hand at the moment, and old Webster's Collegiate, has a separate entry for "you're welcome," defining it simply as a response to "thank you" without even attempting to explain how that works.

    My take:

    "You said what your role demands in this context; now I'm saying what my role demands. Neither of us has to mean it or even understand it. It's just another way of identifying ourselves as members of the same culture."

    On the other hand:

    "Your son died in combat this morning."
    "Thank you for telling me."
    "You're welcome."
    — What the hell would that mean? "Yes, you're welcome to hear about dead children anytime you like. Come on down to the barracks any time. We'll set a place for you and the other grieving families."

    Not that "no problem" leaps to the rescue in this instance. But I think first we must admit that "you're welcome" is not always the most felicitous response to "thank you."

  11. Richard Howland-Bolton said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

    Oh! No! Does this mean you won't support my campaign to havethat day after Thanksgiving Day renamed You'rewelcomegiving Day? Please say it's not true…

  12. Richard Howland-Bolton said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 8:12 pm

    erratum: for havethat read have the throughout.

  13. Katherine said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

    People saying that an event has been "brought forward" or "pushed back", meaning it is happening earlier or later respectively. If you travel forward in time, it means you have gone further into the future, so moving something else forward should mean the same as moving it forward in time! And people flatly refuse to clarify when I ask them too! And then suddenly it is my fault when I don't understand when a meeting is because I haven't received a new time and only been told it has been "brought forward half an hour". That means it's half an hour further in the future, right?

    I am going to start using "pushed forward" and "brought back" to counter these silly people. You'd think they'd never read a book or watched a movie that had time travel in it…

  14. J. Goard said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

    @Spell Me Jeff:

    Yeah, and there seem to be many (quite different!) cases where the best response to "thank you" is something along the lines of, "no, thank you", often with elaboration e.g.:

    A: Thanks for coming to my party! [Where A has busted her ass cleaning, cooking and entertaining.]
    B: You're welcome.


    It also seems weird in response to COMPLIMENT-THANKS, e.g.:

    A: Wow, what a beautiful dress!
    B: Oh, thank you!
    A: You're welcome.

    Doesn't it seem that "you're welcome" expresses something about actual service provided by the speaker, putting it well beyond a fixed response to "thank you"?

  15. Simon Spero said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

    Inflection Phrases- they just drive me crazy. Whenever I hear an Inflection Phrase I get this red mist.

  16. Alissa said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 12:12 am

    @Katherine I'm glad I'm not the only one confused by that. Usually I hear it as just "moved forward" or "moved back" though so there is no clue from the verb as to which direction is meant. My intuitions about the meaning tend to be the opposite of everyone else's. I don't know why.

  17. Randy Hudson said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 12:51 am

    "No problem" seems like an English equivalent to the conventional French "pas de quoi", "de rien", or Spanish "de nada" — "you're thanking me for nothing; it was no problem helping you". I do flinch slightly at it, but I think that's just because it wasn't the convention I was raised with ("you're welcome").

  18. Rick S said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 1:09 am

    @Katherine, Alissa: There are two possible ways to view these phrases as spatial analogues for time. The one you are adopting expresses them in terms of a time line with forward in the natural (positive) direction. The alternative is to view them as spatial separations from the subject, so that something "pushed/moved back" becomes more distant (farther in the future) while something "brought/moved forward" becomes closer (sooner). (Isn't it remarkable how these two alternative spatial analogues for time, each logical in itself, lead to opposite interpretations? How unintuitive!)

  19. Nathan Myers said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 2:53 am

    "No problem" is irritating because it's none of my business if it wasn't a problem. If I'm thankful, it minimizes my gratitude to insist that it's all for nothing. Maybe I'd rather it had been a problem. Maybe nothing, it seems, is a problem any more, only an "issue", and that's a problem itself.

    The correct answer to "no problem" is "lucky you".

  20. Lance said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 4:31 am

    The thing is, Nathan, that "no problem" is irritating in that way only if you take it to mean something literal. And as has been observed above, there's not really all that much that's literal in "you're welcome". It's just a ritualized phrase indicating, as SMJ notes above, that we're recognizing a certain social situation.

  21. Mark Etherton said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 5:49 am


    Peter Ustinov believed that the proper response to the injunction "have a nice day" is "Thank you, but I have other plans".

  22. Aaron Davies said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 6:08 am

    tangentially, something's always bothered me about "Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received" (other than systems that insist on playing it every ten seconds): it strikes me as off to speak of a single call's being answered in some particular order. the alternate formulation "We answer calls in the order in which they are received" lacks the problem; i wonder if there's a better way to express the single-call version?

    (it also occurs to me just now that other languages might be better at this, much as latin can express the question "what place in the order is it" with a single "whichth" word "quotus".)

  23. Aaron Davies said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 6:08 am

    @katherine: i've always found those a little confusing as well, though in my case it's more of a question of how to visualize the timeline–if events are being pushed around on a line with the past at the left and the future at the right, then surely forward is later and backward is earlier. i suppose the correct thing to do is to dive into the first dimension and look at how events are moving towards or away from the point where you sit on that line.

  24. Aaron Davies said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 6:08 am

    to the extent that "you're welcome" has ever had any specific meaning for me, i think i think of it as meaning "thanks weren't really required, you're welcome to whatever it is i just did for you".

  25. Philip TAYLOR said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 7:21 am

    I think that Aaron Davies accurately captures my own feelings about "you're welcome", and I find it odd that some commentators feel offended when they hear the phrase. When a waiter replaces a dirty fork at your request, you are under no obligation to thank him for so doing, but I believe that almost everyone will ('though I can visualise exceptions : those for whom waiters barely exist as people, for example); in just the same way, the waiter is under no obligation to acknowledge your thanks, but almost all will, using whichever of "you're welcome/no problem/no worries/bu ke qi/…" is the local custom. I cannot see how this final part of the exchange could reasonably be though of as being offensive to anyone.

  26. Philip TAYLOR said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 7:22 am

    s/though/thought/ in final sentence.

  27. Faldone said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 7:59 am

    Philip TAYLOR: I find it odd that some commentators feel offended when they hear the phrase.

    Is this a case of someone British not getting irony? That's supposed to be a stereotype of Americans.

  28. Cecily said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 8:08 am

    But Faldone, if "you're welcome" is used ironically, then maybe one has cause to dislike it, or even be offended?

    For the record, I'm English, and although I'm not keen on the phrase because, in my limited experience, it often sounds insincere, I'm not offended by it.

  29. Philip TAYLOR said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 8:39 am

    Sorry, Faldone, I clearly mistook your irony for redneck rage. But perhaps this illustrates why we British believe that Americans are unable to detect irony when it is used : it may be that a British person is better at recognising British irony, whilst American irony may be more obvious to Americans. Of course, you (Faldone) may not be American at all, in which case my hypothesis flounders, but your use of "busboy" suggests, to me at least, that you are more familiar with American restaurant terminology than with British …

  30. Bill Walderman said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 8:46 am

    '"No problem" seems like an English equivalent to the conventional French "pas de quoi", "de rien", or Spanish "de nada" — "you're thanking me for nothing; it was no problem helping you".'

    An English analogy would be "Not at all," a somewhat outmoded response to "Thank you." "Not at all" conveys almost the same idea as "No problem"; yet for some reason it doesn't seem to raise anybody's hackles.

  31. Coby Lubliner said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 9:25 am

    I'm old enough to remember "not at all" as the usual British response to "thank you." Now it seems as if the American "you're welcome" is supplanting it.
    English is not my first language; I spoke Polish, German and Hebrew before it, and in all these language the usual response to "thank you" is the equivalent of "please" (proszę, bitte, b'vakasha). The fact that something different is required in English was jarring enough, but not nearly as jarring as learning that "How do you do?" is not a question about a person's doings but simply what one says on being introduced to someone. This meaningless formula seems to be so ingrained in the Anglophone mind that it doesn't even provoke any peeves!

  32. Tom Vinson said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 9:58 am

    Danae (from Non Sequitur) has her own take on "you're welcome".

  33. Dan Lufkin said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 10:22 am

    Speaking of set phrases, what English lacks is something to say when you hand someone something. Scandinavian has variants on Swedish Var så god, German has Bit'schön, etc. Here y'go just doesn't hack it.

    I've been playing the Ustinov gambit on Have a nice day! for years. It very seldom fails to get a smile if you feign sincerity.

  34. Peter Taylor said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 10:32 am

    @Those who dislike "No problem" and "You're welcome": what is your opinion of "My pleasure"? Too insincere?

  35. Andrew F said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 10:33 am

    Much of this rage seems misplaced. The correspondents are actually annoyed at having to wait or talk to waiters, at having their baggage lost or their bills increased. Their anger has little to do with the actual phrase (I doubt they'd be mollified by an alternative) and language peeving is just used as a vent.

    Two more alternatives to "No problem" are "It was nothing" and "Think nothing of it". I suppose the intended sentiment is "Please don't consider yourself indebted to me".

  36. JimG said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 10:59 am

    Thanks and you're welcome peeve me most when they come at the end of a radio/TV interview. The interviewer thanks the interviewee for giving information or opinion (as is only appropriate), and the interviewee thanks the interviewer. Why the latter? Probably for the ego strokes of being invited to show off and be heard/seen on the medium. Why not say that to discuss the topic was a pleasure, or that it was no problem at all?

    My favorite peeve, at least this week: "It is what it is."

  37. marie-lucie said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 11:16 am

    the conventional French "pas de quoi", "de rien"

    I am a native French speaker and those expressions sound substandard to me and I don't use them. The first one is a shortening of "(Il n')y a pas de quoi", which is itself a short form of a sentence which can be completed by a specific verb phrase, for instance "(Il n') y a pas de quoi en faire une maladie", literally 'There is not enough to become ill over it', so 'it is not important enough to make a big fuss over it'. Such a sentence is used to dismiss or disparage the concerns or problems of another person (whether present or not), so to me it cannot be used as a polite acknowledgement of the thanks or other polite reaction of that person, and the shortening "pas de quoi" sounds especially disparaging. "De rien" does not sound quite as bad, but I would not use it either.

    Instead of using those words, I would probably just smile, or, if I wanted to be very polite in a more formal way, I would say "Je vous en prie", also a conventional (and probably now old-fashioned) expression which I cannot gloss adequately.

  38. Ralph Hickok said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 11:51 am

    I really don't understand why "You're welcome" is such a puzzle to some people. A phrase such as "You're welcome to ask for my help whenever you need it" is perfectly understandable, I think, and it's this sense of "welcome" that's usually embodied in "You're welcome."

  39. Boris said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

    So what does "you're always welcome" mean? It can't mean I can come into the store whenever I want. I already know that. And besides, that wouldn't work. Let's say the phrase "open hours" was replaced by "you're welcome" above the listing of open hours. Would you not find that strange? Or would I otherwise think that they don't want me in the store?

  40. Bloix said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

    Coby Lubliner – I'm old enough to say that "no problem" (ayn ba'ayah) has been common in Hebrew for decades.

    I do have a pet peeve about one response to 'thank you' – "thank YOU!' Unless I'm falling into the recency illusion, this seems to be more and more common, and the reason I don't like it is that it seems to be (or to have originated) as a way of implying that the other person is the one who has done the favor or task requiring thanks – ie it's a subtle expression of higher status or authority. I say "thank you" and you say "thank YOU!," – as if you're rejecting my offer of thanks and saying that I'm the service provider and you are the recipient of the service. I don't like it.

  41. Philip TAYLOR said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

    "Thank you !" "Thank YOU !" is a pattern which occurs frequently in my social circle when guests are leaving. The guest(s) thanks the host(s) for having invited them, then the host(s) thanks the guest(s) for gracing the house with the pleasure of their company. I feel perfectly comfortable with it, both as guest and as host.

  42. Mr Fnortner said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

    In the please and thank you vein, an older gentleman I know uses the expression "Much obliged" to say thank you, exposing his southern roots, I imagine. He and I have discussed "No problem" before and agree that the manners error is that the recipient of the favor is not supposed to know that any problem at all, even one denied, was involved in providing the service. Thus, to say "No problem" is crass in that it exposes to light the issue of problems. That is why "You are welcome [to ask for my help whenever you need it]" (thank you, Ralph Hickok) is the socially correct response. It keeps the burden on the shoulders of the service provider, never worrying the recipient with any hint of problems, or guilt for causing them, even indirectly. Similarly, "It was nothing" and "Think nothing of it" operate in the same manner to assuage any misgivings the requester may have had.

  43. mollymooly said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

    These terms of politeness have a quicker turnover than one might expect; "hello" was a hunting term till the telephone company decided to specify it rather than "ahoy" as the preferred greeting.

    The OED dates "you're welcome" to 1907. It's standard in Ireland, but we're quicker to pick up Americanisms here than the British are. "No problem" is also common here; it was associated with politician Brian Lenihan (Senior) when he ran for President in 1990, as part of his presentation as a genial buffoon; this backfired and he lost the election.

    @Katherine et al: two common systems of metaphor for time are:
    *ego-moving: time is a road; you are travelling from the past to the future
    *time-moving: time is a conveyor belt; events are coming from the future, through the present, into the past.
    The directionality is reversed between these two systems. ego-moving is commoner in English but both are used.

    @marie-lucie: "je vous en prie" is similar to German "bitte", where the response to "thanks" is "please" [stop it, you're embarrassing me!]

    @Bloix: Thank YOU, motherthanker, and the horse you rode in on!

  44. Z. D. Smith said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 10:17 pm

    Wait a minute, are we really going to contend that 'no problem' is crass because it somehow implies that there actually WAS a problem, or might have been a problem, or that a problem had been feared or suspected by either or both parties, but that 'It was nothing', while conveying the exact same sentiment (ie, "my assistance wasn't a burden or a pain"), is perfectly acceptable, because it doesn't actually CONTAIN the word 'problem' in it? Has the whole world gone mad?

  45. marie-lucie said,

    November 25, 2009 @ 11:14 pm

    mollymooly, thank you, "je vous en prie" makes sense in that context. It actually means "I implore you" (to do or stop doing whatever), so here "I implore you not to thank me so much", perhaps.

  46. Simon Cauchi said,

    November 26, 2009 @ 12:55 am

    Merci — Je vous en prie
    Danke schön — Bitte schön
    Grazie — Prego
    Gracias — De nada

    There must be some equivalent in Portuguese and in the Scandinavian and East European languages.
    The Greek word for thank you is "efaristo" (spelling? but it's in Greek characters anyway), which is cognate with our "eucharist". I don't know what response they have, if any.
    The Turks, so far as I can see, have no conventional response to "Teşekkür ederim".

    In Maori you use the same form of words for both:
    Kia ora — Kia ora (a phrase that can mean just about any expression of good will, gratitude, cheerful greeting, etc. Literally it just means “May you be well.”)

  47. Charlie C said,

    November 26, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

    @ Mark Etherton and Dan Lufkin
    I suppose the proper response to the Ustinov gambit would be "You're welcome."

  48. James Wimberley said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

    "Important notice" and "this is an important security announcement", both spotted in British airports, attached to reminders of security rules well-known to all travellers. The oxymoronic denotation of both is "unimportant, routine"; the connotation, "self-important". Proof: you are the duty security manager in the airport and there has just been a terrorist bomb attack, setting off a major fire. You have just decided to close the airport and evacuate all the passengers inside it. Imagine the phrasing of your (genuinely important) announcement. I bet it doesn't include the word "important"; your aim is to prevent panic, not to get attention. The content and authority of your announcement does this by itself.

  49. Per Jørgensen said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

    Simon Cauchi, the Norwegian phrase you're looking for is Vær så god, literally "be so good." If you ask me to pass the salt, that's what I'll say when I pass it to you. In other words, it is not a response to thank you but precedes it. The Swedish and Danish equivalents are the same, apart from a different spelling in Swedish.

    The equivalent to You're welcome is ingen årsak, literally "no reason."

    Using the salt shaker example, the normal sequence would not be Takk > Vær så god but Vær så god > Takk > Ingen årsak.

    While I have the podium, my rage phrase: Everything happens for a reason.

  50. Vaibhav Godani said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 6:11 pm

    I've seen people say 'mention not!' and 'anytime' in response to 'thanks'….While 'mention not!' still has a formal connotation, even though milder than 'please don't say it' ilk, 'anytime' seems to suggest a boastful proclamation from the service provider maintaining that the service rendered was a trivial pursuit and can never bother him/her to reperform, 'anytime'…..

    'My pleasure' seems to seal the deal perfectly….

    How does 'How do you do?' work, remains a mystery to me…..

  51. Bloix said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 6:58 pm

    I held a door open for someone today. As she passed through, she said "thank you," and I responded – without thinking about it – "sure."

  52. jack of Hearts said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

    Of course, these are not really linguistic peeves. They are just social rough spots, which are often characterized by the offended party as being caused by the linguistic structure itself. Most "educated" speakers who have no specific linguistic knowledge end up overthinking the insult, by ascribing actual (literal) meaning to the words of a phrase that is mainly

    They think they're being oh-so-clever in deconstructing the phrase, but it's really the tone of the comment, or the perceived social gaffe, that annoys them.

    It's equivalent to being smacked in the face with a sign that reads "YIELD", and then complaining that it hurt because you didn't want to yield.

  53. jack of Hearts said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

    whoops, first paragraph of my comment should end, "… that is mainly a stereotyped utterance."

  54. Oportet said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

    'You're welcome,' I believe, stems from the sentence, 'You're welcome to ask that of me at any time.' It's sort of implied. Just like we get rid of the I in 'I thank you,' and how the Germans get rid of ich in 'Ich bitte Sie.' Yes, no?

  55. Marissa said,

    December 21, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

    A very interesting discussion on peeves & rage phrases. I found this site searching for a way to contact Geoff Nunberg to ask him about my current rage phrase: "Thank you so much".

    It's kind of an extension to the above discussion, so I thought I'd post on it.

    What burns my gut on this phrase is our missing friend "very". Since when did "very" get shunned from our language? NPR commentators ignore it, TV news shlameels ignore it. Everybody & their mother (except mine who is also a grammarian) replaces "very" with "so".

    It sounds immature & slang to me. Has our entire language stooped to the lowest common denominator so much so (pun intended) that using a two-syllable word to indicate emphasis when thanking someone is passe? As a nation of English speakers, qre we really pressed for time that severely that our adverb friend is now tossed so distinctly into the grammatical trash bin?

    As a result, I make a point of using "very" as often as I can, especially in said rage phrase. Even while texting, I'll abreviate British-style i.e. "Thanks v much for dinner last night".


  56. NickB said,

    April 11, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    I can accept 'you're welcome', as it is a nothing statement, but in Faldone's example above, would not accept a 'no problem'. Put a dirty fork on my table and it is a problem. Replace it and I will say thank you. Tell me it's 'no problem', even referring to replacing the fork, when it clearly was a problem – I'm not putting a dirty fork in my mouth – and I will growl ! For me, neither 'you're welcome' nor 'no problem' is a match for the Spanish 'de nada' (it is / was nothing).

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