”Thank you” does not mean ”I was afraid you were going to hurt me”

I think this has been discussed before, but here are my reflections because I felt a need to express them. In Sweden, the most common reply to ”thank you” (’tack’) these days seems to be literally ”no danger” (’ingen fara’), as in ”you are not in any danger”. This annoys me. ”Thank you” does not mean ”don’t hurt me” or ”I’m afraid of you” or ”you are the master and I am your slave”. No, it means ”I appreciate that you did me a small favor” (depending on the situation of course).

When dealing with young people (I’m middle aged), say a person who works at a store, I have sometimes even got a lightly terrified stare when I say ”thank you”, together with the ”Oh, you are not in danger!” (’ingen fara’) response. Young people: I know that. You don’t have to tell me that there is no danger. I know that. I am being polite. That does not mean that I’m afraid of you. These are two different things.

Recently I was at the store, and the young cashier did not know the price of some vegetable I was buyng. ”Do you know the price per kilo?” she asked me. I said, ”No, but I can go and check if you wish.” (The price tag was only a few meters from where I stood.) For a moment she stared at me as if I was a psychopath, then hastily she said: ”No, that’s not necessary!” and turned around, seemingly upset, to her colleague. As if I had said or implied something hostile. But I did not, I politely asked her if wanted me to check the price per kilo, but her reaction to that polite proposal gave me the impression that she did not know how to respond to such a question.

I would like to point out that I am not a frightening person; to the best of my knowledge I am regarded as a nice fellow in everyday dealings, and I almost always express myself politely when dealing with strangers.

Yesterday a young man asked a question in a Facebook group I sometimes check in on, regarding how to express numbers in prose. I said that there is an old editorial rule that says so-and-so, and gave a source to it. He said something like, ”OK, but I prefer to do so-and-so”. I said, of course everyone is free to express it how ever they want, but since you asked ”how one does” I thought I’d share my knowledge on the subject.

Then came the weirdest response: The young man sincerely apologized for having expressed a different view, saying that he didn’t mean any disrespect.

What the fuck?! Since when is having different opinions on trivial matters somthing that demands apologies?

These are of course only a couple of recent examples, but it seems to me that the most basic rules for social interactions that as far as I know goes back hundreds if not thousands of years are simply evaporating, or am I going mad (old)? Or is it Sweden only?

There’s a difference between the literal meaning of a word or phrase, and the colloquial meaning. Go to other countries and the Swedish “no danger” might be replaced by “no worries” or “no problem” (the latter pops up in many languages). The colloquial meaning in all cases is something along the lines of “my trifling favor to you does not incur any obligation on your part; there is nothing more you need to say or do regarding this transaction.” In the case of “ingen fara,” I’d guess that the longer phrase it came from is something like “you are not in danger of being obligated to me” rather than “you are not in danger of being brutally murdered by me”.

That’s a bit odd, but I’m not sure what it has to do with “ingen fara.” :confused:

It is a little odd to ask someone for advice, and then immediately after receiving that advice, to rebut it with any kind of challenge. I think maybe he realized that and felt dumb after you pointed out “hey man, you asked how it’s done and I told you.” I’ve caught myself in the past behaving like that guy, i.e. receiving sound advice from someone and then challenging it. And then felt dumb after the fact.

Well, you SAY that… (something something) Vikings (something).

OP, it sounds from your post that Sweden is in competition with Canada for ‘most polite nation on earth.’ It would drive me nuts as well.

Thank you for you well thought response, Machine Elf. Yes, well you are probably right regarding “ingen fara”. I understand that people doesn’t really *mean *anything with it (along the lines I described it). The point of my following examples was to try to illustrate a fairly new phenomena, that “people” does not seem to understand polite remarks, as if they never heard it before, and don’t understand what to make of it. So I think social interactions become very weird sometimes. But of course I was a bit upset when I wrote the OP, I had to ventilate a bit. I appreciate that you gave a serious reply.

Thank you for your support. :slight_smile:

That is literally what it means, as it happens. https://en.bab.la/dictionary/swedish-english/ingen-fara

It’s possibly a mistake to take idioms too literally. That is all.

And then we wake up one morning to find that “Smell you later” has replaced “Goodbye.”

And a lighthearted take on it here. (FYI, the entire video is worth watching, but as this isn’t Cafe Society I cued it to the relevant part).