No Problem?

An aspect of youth culture that each generation seems to embrace on its own, is the lingo of the day. Gee is just a letter now. Swell is what happens when something puffs up. Groovy? Um…that’s just old fashioned now. Some current expressions are not necessarily new words, but newer or greater usages of already existing words. Awesome. Of course, the word “awesome” has lost it’s power, which was it’s original meaning. (Powerfully inspiring; daunting; stunning; amazing; breathtaking.) Likewise, the use of the word “epic” has become rather pedestrian. Epic fail.  I remember when one of my kids first said “my bad” to me. It was in response to some mess or something that broke. I remember feeling confused. I was expecting an “I’m sorry,” or “my fault”, or “my mistake”, or even “oh no!” . My bad? In my ignorance I tried to do the parenting thing whereby the parent distinguishes the person from the behavior (or result of the behavior). “No, you’re not bad….”. After a humiliating glare from this young adolescent, a rare occurrence ensued–a vocabulary lesson. From the kid. I got that “my bad” is used linguistically like  an apology, or “ my mistake”, but without acknowledging the mistake or an apology. A mistake is an opportunity to correct. An apology is contrition. “My bad” is an acknowledgement that something went wrong. Oh well. I get the current usage, but can’t help but think that there is significance to the lack of consideration of mistakes, opportunities to correct, or contrition. It’s a larger cultural phenomenon, not merely lingo.

Many have bemoaned the youthful,contagious response to “thank you”: “no problem”. Really, there is nothing wrong with someone saying “no problem”. I’m glad there was no problem. However, “you’re welcome” is much more of an acknowledgement. To thank someone for something or for a service and to receive the acknowledgement that one is welcome to that opportunity is how we create cohesion. Not having a problem is lucky. It does not create social cohesion. “No problem” is used linguistically in the same way that “you’re welcome” is used (without the welcoming), just like “my bad” is used like “I’m sorry” (without the apology).

Yes, each generation has it’s jargon and expressions, and in some ways they differentiate the generations even though there may be parallels. We don’t just identify an era (or generation)by the lingo, although like music and fashion and other art and design styles, we have clues to understanding the era. New words or expressions are in part an attempt to distinguish an era. This is now. “My bad” may be used like ‘my mistake’ or ‘I’m sorry’, but it is interesting to note the lack of contrition. We live in an era of not taking full responsibility. We hear politicians all the time saying that they take full responsibility for something wrong, but it seems like just saying “I take responsibility” is taking responsibility. “My bad.” Move on. Likewise, problems are either avoided or disregarded. “No problem.” There are enormous problems with our infrastructure, education, economy and jobs, environmental concerns, and endless wars and violence (among many other issues), and while we are thankful for what we have, we are not welcome to engage in coherent solutions. “No problem”. There has always been loyal opposition in politics, but because of ubiquitous media and the changing state and quality of journalism, it seems like this era is not only less polite, but less about engagement and social cohesion. There will always be problems to solve and mistakes to correct.. Situations are not static. They reverberate. Responsibility and relationship are essential and always unfolding, unless they are cut off. “No problem.” No thank you.

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