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‘Thank you’ should mean something more than social code

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By RACHAEL TOLLIVER / Editor

The definition of “thank you,” in our modern society, generally means something that you give or do that shows thanks, or a polite expression of gratitude. Its first known use was 1792, so says Merriam-Webster Dictionary but there are different schools of thought on how and why.

And “Thank you” is often coupled with “please.”

Of course, there are books on the origin of the English language that show us a lot of our words come from other languages, which means our phrases can date back hundreds of years. “Thank you” and “please” are two of those phrases.

I’ve read that “please” was short for “If you please,” meaning “you are under no obligation to do this.” But imagine the social backlash today if you said “no” to a simple request. That’s because modern society needed social codes for polite exchange and this is one of those codes.

And “thank you” was said to come from “think” meaning “I will remember what you did for me.” Again, in modern society it’s a social code. We rarely remember what we just thanked someone for—passing your lunch through the window at the local fast food restaurant; cleaning your teeth at the dentist; handing you the receipt at the local giant box-retailer—it’s basically become just an acknowledgment of someone’s existence. We even say “thank you” today as a way to end a conversation.

Sometimes I wonder why we still hold to this social code because so few times it is said with real meaning.

I do know that when someone extends a courtesy, such as opening a door for me, I want them to know I do appreciate the gesture.

And why, you ask, did I choose to write about the origin of such phrases in a commentary?

Well, as the editor of this newspaper I am severely short-staffed, and this installation is made up of more components now than it was 10 years ago—I don’t think people fully realize what all that we do at Fort Knox.

So to gather information, whether it’s a photo, story or a tid-bit to pass on, I rely on the help of many people—people who respond to my plea, usually, with speed, accuracy and the understanding that they can fill that void.

And I always try to send them an email with a “Many Thanks!” note attached. But is a quick email note enough for them to know their efforts mean more to me than getting a burger at the local “How fat can you get” fast food chain?

Possibly not.

Do the folks at VIOS who probably roll their eyes when I send a desperate plea for help with photographing an event, because I am covering a different event, know that I am grateful beyond what a mere email can convey?

Do the men and wo- men in the Environmen-tal Management Divis-ion, Cultural Resources Division, and Directorate of Public Works know how appreciative I am when they answer my requests for information or interviews quickly? Or that I breathe a sigh of relief when that information isn’t just a short sentence but gives me enough to understand the context so I can relay it to our readers?

And the staff at Range Control has a tough job—operating so much space for units from all over the U.S., keeping safety as a number one priority but with a limited staff. So I wonder if they know how grateful I am for the access they grant me to the range areas when stories pop up with little notice, and I couldn’t coordinate with them as soon as they might have liked.

How about the public affairs and command offices at the various Army Reserve units on post who regularly feed me tips, stories and other information in that helpful way that says, “We are here and will do anything you need to make this work!” Do they know how much I depend on that relationship?

Have I ever made mention of how thankful I am for the stress-free way the PA staff at Human Resources Command says, “Wrote some stories and took some photos, do what you will with them, we know you have to edit for space. By the way, when’s the next get-together-lunch?”

And I’ll tell you something else, no matter how many holidays I remember, I can’t express my gratitude enough to the staff of our publisher who keep me on track with layout, design and publication. They don’t get too upset when I want a design change or a special edition, and then work hard to make it happen.

There are too many agencies and people around here to whom I should say, “thanks” for me to list you all here, but I just wanted to take this space and time to say:

I value you all, I “remember what you do for me.” n