‘Thank you’ is indeed a polite expression used when acknowledging or accepting a gift or service, be it to hitch a lift in someone’s ride or picking up a dropped parcel, or even when it comes to a compliment. It is also used when accepting or refusing an offer like a dinner invitation or piece of cake. There are some sardonic characters who would say it when you offer something they dislike or they might like it but not when it comes just from you.
When a ‘Thank you’ is uttered, it would warm the heart of the doer who would have spent many hours or days preparing the offer. Often, they would end up disappointed if their efforts are not appreciated. When not many people are humble or refined enough to say a mere ‘Thank you,’ saying it would be greatly cherished, especially by the ladies. The writer, who was once a teacher, born and bred in a country and culture where saying ‘thank you’ was something alien. He was more than pleased when one of his students showed up after the very final English class before his London O/L exam to say how grateful he was.
(This article is coloured by the writer’s own experience not because he likes to blow his trumpet, but because he feels substantiating what he says with his own experience would convince the readers; truth is stranger than fiction, they say)
The Bible says Jesus prayed for ten lepers and sent them home. When they reached their abodes, they were all healed, but only one turned up to thank Him! This shows that even during those days, the practice of saying ‘Thank you’ was not ingrained in many people, so much so that one of the writer’s friends exhorted him to write on this topic. At present, it is not so well-known in our paradise isle where every prospect pleases, but only man is vile.
Saying ‘Thank you’ is a good way of showing appreciation. It sets the stage for good relationships. In villages, people say thank you with a smile. Among the elite, it would look rude when what you had done for the person is not appreciated.
We teach our children good manners when they are small. This includes saying a simple ‘Thank you’ when someone does something good to you. But things surely turn around with time. While the French say ‘Merci becoup’ for ‘Thank you,’ in Germany it is ‘Dankesehr.’ Hindus and Maldivians say ‘Shookriya’ while we in this emerald isle Sri Lanka say ‘Bohoma sthoothi’ or ‘Ubaharam.’
The writer’s late father used to relate a tale where a woman boarded a crowded bus and was not offered a seat for a long time until a gentleman did. She fainted, recovered and said ‘Thank you.’ Then the man fainted.
A Swedish couple lived with the writer’s parents when he was young. They said it was the Swedish custom to stand up after each meal and thank anyone who offered it. So they used to say ‘Tucksu miku’ meaning ‘Thank you,’ and our parents would reply ‘Ta ha Ta ha’ probably meaning it was alright. This was a good practice to show parental care was appreciated -- something most of us take for granted.
The writer’s maternal uncle would drive ‘Thank you’ into the heads of his nieces and nephews. If they do not say ‘Thank you’ after receiving a gift or help, he himself would keep on saying ‘Thank you, Thank you…’ until they did.
Of course there are hundreds of educated people to whom saying ‘Thank you’ is unknown. When the writer was teaching abroad, another teacher used to blame him for observing formalities. He would over-stress the ‘r’ in the word ‘formality,’ much to the writer’s amusement or, sometimes, contempt. Another person under whom the writer was working was highly impressed that he thanked the doer for each and every gesture. After a lapse of about six months, he said: “One thing I learnt from you was to appreciate another person’s efforts and say ‘Thank you.’ The writer quipped: “Why don’t you thank me for that.”
The writer had his entire education in an American mission college where he was trained to observe all formalities. Saying ‘Thank you’ was convenient and they even used to send appreciation cards.
Once, he was teaching a girl whose father used to come home late at night and had no time to talk to his daughter. But noticing that the teacher kept company with her daughter, the mother thought of showing her appreciation by an additional payment that month. Following the receipt of it, the writer sent her a ‘Thank you’ card.
Christians are enjoined to thank the Lord for all the good things in life. They are obliged to thank the Lord before every meal. Church hymns are full of ‘Thank you’ songs. Apart from that, popular singer Jim Reeves composed a song titled ’We thank thee.’
The writer makes it a point to say ‘Thank you’ to his family members for each and every help like bringing him a cup of tea. This puts to right the minor differences of opinions that might arise in domestic affairs. When in a joyous mood, he repeats a line from My fair lady, “That’s very nice of you, how very kind of you.”
More often than not, when the writer says ‘Thank you’ to a trishaw driver, he is smart enough to respond ‘Welcome.’In the olden days, it was usual to say ‘Don’t mention.’ Now it is no longer in vogue. It is as dead as a dodo.
The writer wishes to conclude his article with an absurdity for the readers to ponder--- ‘Thank God , I’m an atheist!’(said an atheist!)
Thank you, dear readers, for reading this! That was very kind of you, how very nice of you!