Houston, we have a problem. It’s no problem, a phrase comprising two negatives that’s meant as an affirmative.
No problem and its sister not a problem (the Australians have no worries, but that’s another story) have supplanted yes, you’re welcome, happy to help, OK, that’s fine, got it, here you go, and I can handle that for you. All of which are positives.
I relish being told yes, appreciate the good manners of a you’re welcome, am delighted when someone tells me he’s happy to help me out, am grateful for a simple OK, relax when I hear something’s fine, can move on to other things when I’m confident someone has gotten what he needs, am appreciative when I’ve gotten what I need, and am relieved when I finally reach the person who can indeed handle my problem.
But tell me no problem and I instantly have one. That’s because you’ve started out by saying no, making my system shudder, and then you compound matters with the word problem, which downright rattles me.
“I’d like a large pizza for take-out.”
“With pepperoni and mushrooms.”
“No problem! Is that it?”