Yet another global trend that is catching up fast hereabouts is the pressing compulsion to be ‘nice’ even when the situation warrants fists. Now fists, must, of course, be sternly discouraged, but promoting this repressive culture of faux-niceness — which stigmatises all expressions of entirely justified annoyance as emotional or mental health problems, and sometimes even as threats to law and order — is absolutely terrifying. Indeed, the only thing scarier than this trend is its happy acceptance all around by people who conflate politeness with mandatory cheerfulness.
But more on media conspiracies, dread prophecies and dire ramifications later. For now, a reposting of my reaction when I first encountered this very odd sociolinguistic phenomenon, back in 2008. With some of the original comments.
Of all the wonderful (adj: inciting wonder) things I am learning in the US, perhaps the most wonder-inciting is the extended use of the phrase, “thank you”. A section of the populace uses it like it is an unbalanced overcompensating parent, signifying bubbly cheerfulness at the end of accusatory or possibly even incendiary notes or speech. To demonstrate my point, here are a few examples that I have collected over the last sevenish months:
1. From neighbour to a kindly girl who hosted the neighbour’s freedom-seeking puppy till said neighbour got back from work, and then returned aforementioned p. to aforementioned n. :
“Hi X! Next time my puppy wonders [sic.] on [sic.] the hall [American for corridor] plz dont [sic.] “rescue” it by kidnapping it in you’re [sic.] room. Thanks! :)”
2. Landlord to defaulting tenant:
Dear Y, I am taking this opportunity to inform you that you have not paid up [sic.] your rents [sic.] for the last two months and this month’s rent has also been not paid till today. If I do not get three month’s [sic.] rent by this Friday I will be forced to evict you legally [as opposed to hiring goons to throw her out illegally?]. Thank you and have a great day!
3. Youtube comment:
I think u r a moron fukin asshole dont reply i will nt reply to u anymore ok thanks bye.
I would not disagree with the general consensus that Americans are, on the whole, a bunch of rather friendly, easy-going, cheerful, and nice sort of people (especially now that they have deposed of their special-needs outbacks-President). Neither would I advocate an abandonment of good manners and a sunshiney approach to life. However, I think I speak for at least one/billionth of the world when I say that after a certain point, the friendliness and good cheer begins to sound a little creepily misguided, and is best abandoned in favour of honest rage, or cold, clipped words personally delivered. Or perhaps even a good sulk topped with a rant. Much more… refreshing, for the soul. And the soul must not be denied. Especially in a land where firearms are in visible abundance.
First published in March, 2009.