You know the scene.  You are sitting in a restaurant, giving your order to the otherwise pleasant waiter/waitress and, after each dish you specify, he/she says “no problem”.

I know that I am a bit grumpy, but I find this particular usage irritating.  Where did it come from?!  Is it an Americanism?  Or maybe a result of watching too many Australian soaps?

I feel like saying “It’s good that you have assessed my request and on balance you feel able to accede to it, as it apparently does not cause you a problem. The message I’m receiving is that if it did cause you a problem, you would probably be unable to grant me my request. That sort of  conditionality as regards your establishment’s service policy is not to my taste”.

What’s wrong with a simple “Certainly”, or a “Yes sir/madam”, or a repetition of the order by way of confirmation that it has been understood and registered?

I am frankly not that interested in whether, or the extent to which, my order causes a problem for the restaurant in which I am spending my hard-earned money. If what I have ordered is by some chance unavailable on the day in question, then simply advise me of this, with an appropriate apology for my disappointment. Otherwise I’m frankly not interested in your problems, or lack of same. I come to restaurants to get away from everyday problems.

To quote a fellow blogger:  “By saying it in response to your lunch order, the waiter is suggesting that, by ordering, you are annoying the waiter, and that a lesser waiter might have walked off in a huff, but that he will graciously bear the inconvenience of having you around.”

So come on, waiters and waitresses of the world: watch your language!

Quote of the Day

1 February, 2011

One of the language-usage blogs I follow is “You Don’t Say” written by the Baltimore Sun’s self-styled “moderate prescriptivist”, John McIntyre.

Today he has this: “No one would have taken greater joy in the tea party phenomenon than Henry Mencken, who reflexively distrusted all True Believers but found their antics hugely amusing. I myself am happily awaiting the discovery, already beginning to dawn in Washington, that campaigning is comparatively easy but governance is hard.”

For some reason, I immediately though of Sinn Féin when I read the (so true) last phrase.  How great it must be to have the luxury of making bold assertions about how the country’s problems can be solved, in the knowledge that they will not be in Government after the next election.

We used to mock the Greengrocer’s Apostrophe, where simple plurals were adorned with a redundant piece of punctuation (such as “Twelve apple’s for €3”).  If that wasn’t bad enough, two years ago I started to spot an even worse solecism: the use of an apostrophe in the third person present tense of a verb.  The first hair-raising example I spotted was in an advertisement in the Sunday Tribune T2 section on 13th September 2009, where we were told that “The Gate Theatre Celebrate’s [sic] Friel”.  The Irish Times joined in the fun last year in its TV listings for 15th June,2010 where we were informed (in relation to a World Cup match) that “the likelihood of another shock look’s [sic] slim”).

Today I received an e-mail from AIB Global Treasury Services informing me that “Euro Edge’s [sic] Back From One Month High”, reproduced below.

It’s bad enough that our taxes are being used to keep these people in their well-paid jobs.  The least they could do is avoid grammatical or punctuation howlers in their communications with the outside world.  It  reminds me of AIB chief executive  Colm Doherty’s misuse of the word “Fulsome”  last September.