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A manner of speaking

Putting a little thought behind the Thank You

It's always nice to be mindful of your manners, especially when saying thanks. And no matter what the New York Times, bless its heart, reports about a decline in civility in the South, we still say "thank you" with a good measure of regularity. If there is a lapse, we like to think it's just a momentary dip in the road back to good manners.

Speaking of which, did you know a "thank-you-ma'am" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a bump or depression in a road; especially: a ridge or hollow made across a road on a hillside to cause water to run off"? Or that the word "thank" comes from the Old English "thancian" (to give thanks)?

You may think that just the act of saying "thanks" or "thank you" is good enough. But it takes more than just blurting out the words or dashing off an email or text to get the job done right. It takes a certain level of skill to show appreciation promptly without appearing too brisk or as if you are just crossing one more item off your to-do list. Besides requiring a carefully timed delivery and attention to specifics, say in a hand-written thank-you note, saying thanks requires finesse. Enlist tired clichés or too-cute phrases — "appreciate-cha" — and your thanks could sound hollow instead of heartfelt.

Old-school Southerners may insist that saying "thank you" is required after any act of kindness, with a "ma'am" or "sir" punctuating the end. OK, so maybe we have slacked off a bit, what with our heads in our hand-helds and all. Yet, we still know that comfort comes from this kind of exchange. And these acts of goodwill should most certainly go beyond our interactions with strangers. If you think saying "thank you" to family or friends isn't necessary, think again.

You're welcome.

— Vené Franco



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