Column: A question of civility


While clearing the stacks on my desk, I found an article called “Lessons in Civility.” In it the author expressed concern that today’s version of being civil is a far cry from days of old when please and thank you were favorite expressions and that the advent of the internet has fueled the erosion of basic civility.

Perhaps you’re curious about the root of the word civility. It comes from the Latin civis, for citizen. To be “civil” is to act in a way appropriate to your fellow citizens and our shared space. To treat people civilly means that we recognize that they are just as much people as you are, similar to empathy.

This brings me to another article called “Wishful Thinking,” in which the author laments the use of expressions such as, “No problem,” “I’m good” and “my bad,” wondering how these expressions became so popular and recalling how the response to “thank you” was “you’re welcome” in earlier times. When the response is “no problem,” does that mean there had been a problem?

Moving on to the next response to a question, “I’m good,” meaning what? Better than before, don’t bother me? Maybe I need to spend more time with the younger generation instead of the ones my age, who are puzzled by these phrases.

Then, the most interesting response, “My bad.” Is there a secret language? The author of the article found this expression to be the most offensive, sounding somewhere between a concession and a gloat. The Urban Dictionary says it signifies a way of admitting a mistake and apologizing for the mistake without actually apologizing.

While “you’re welcome” and “no, thank you” actually mention the other person, the newer expressions are self-focused and fit with the selfie concept.

Maybe it’s old-fashioned to like “pretty” words, but it grates on my nerves to hear “stuff” instead of what it is or “you guys.” Have ladies become guys?

I guess I’ll just cringe and get over it.


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