Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

I heard myself say one of those meaningless phrases the other day as I handed someone a book they had asked for. “There you go!” I said and it started me think, how many times a day do you hear someone say “There you go!”? - - what does it mean?

It may be some bored waiter who serves you with a bun and a cup of coffee. As half of the contents of the cup slop into the saucer and a tired looking bun skids to the edge of the plate - “There you go!”.

To be fair, he or she probably sees you, not as a human being, but merely a bun and coffee consuming machine and the mechanically repeated mantra of “There you go!” is a sub conscious but heartfelt desire to see us all ‘Go’ so that they can return to a seat in the corner and continue with the dream of earning shed loads of money as a Pop star and drinking champagne out of David Beckham’s boot or Posh’s shoe.

It’s almost as though there is a second language which can be used in place of real words. These words and phrases stem from a desperate need to say something but without getting involved in a conversation. The person who served you in the cafe has another of these phrases which can be heard in every cafe, store, supermarket, shopping centre - in fact anywhere where human being exchange money for goods or services. As you head towards the exit of the cafe through closely packed tables you will hear “See you later!”. If you heard the phrase as anything more important than the rattle of cup on saucer, you might think “Not if I see you first!” and anyway, you know the chances of being “Seen later” are pretty slim as you have no intention of visiting this dried bun dispensing establishment ever again.

I mean, why say anything at all? A grunt will suffice. Or extend the phrase and make sure the customer really hears you. “Please visit us again, I so look forward to seeing you”. Mind you if you heard that as you negotiated shopping bags and badly placed chairs you would probably trip and fall flat on your face.

I have a feeling that “See you later” originated in Lancashire because no matter which part of the Country you visit you can hear a trace of the North Country accent. Just listen carefully and you will be able to hear, creeping through the Geordie, Welsh or Scottish intonation - “Si ya layter!”

Come to think of it, here are quite a few meaningless North Country phrases. “Narthen!” Which roughly translates into “Now then!”.,sometimes doubled up to “Narthen then”. What the second ‘then’ is about goodness only knows; “Ey oop” (Could that be “Look out”?); “How do”; “Sithee ere”; “By Gum”. So perhaps Northerners are responsible for all this meaningless chatter.

It’s a bit like that American import “Have a nice day!”. It may be said by someone with a British regional accent you could cut with a knife but there will still be an American twang to it. In any case, how many people who say that, attach any significance to it? Do they really give a stuff whether you have a nice day or not? Would we really notice if they said “Have a bad day!”?

Speaking of American accents, just listen to your local, home spun Pop star. Everybody has at least one, not matter whether you live in Liverpool or Glasgow, Somerset or Yorkshire. As they take their first faltering steps into the limelight they will be interviewed on local radio or TV. They will probably be slightly incoherent and will liberally lace their answers to the interviewer with “errr”, “You know” and “Sort of” but they will have an accent which puts them firmly in your locality. That is until they are asked to sing. Transformation! They miraculously become American! I think technically the accent they use to sing is described as ‘Mid Atlantic’ but it does mean their sloppy local accent is transformed in a flash, to sloppy American.

I’m fairly sure English singers used to sing in English and Americans in American. The change probably came during WW2 as a result of our relationship with all the American GIs who found themselves ‘Over Here’. On the one hand we criticised them for having flashy uniforms, getting the girls, having chewing gum and chocolate and generally having a good time.

On the other hand
we envied them. Oh! how we envied them and for what? For having flashy uniforms, getting the girls, having chewing gum and chocolate and generally having a good time. Whilst we tried to find fault we really wanted to be just like them and what better way than to sound like Frank Sinatra and chew gum. (So THEY are responsible for all the splodges of gum on our pavements!)

Another useless phrase which you will hear time and time again, is “No problem”. In most cases it really is no problem because all the speaker has done is pass you the salt or provided some other tiny service and if it WAS a problem you would probably still be there waiting to be served. Many of these things have no real meaning attached to them by either the speaker or listener. I once read that King George V, or it might have been President Roosevelt (Who cares!) when shaking hands with rows of dignitaries, occasionally dropped in amongst the “So nice to meet you” and “Glad you were able to join us”, a “I hope your Grandfather is feeling better” or “Glad you’re getting over the gout” - - nobody seemed to notice.

I suppose the moral is, use real language instead of the meaningless garbage and perhaps even better - simply don’t say anything!

We would welcome your comments or to hear what YOU think. Let us know by clicking on


If we publish anything you send, just let us know if we can use your name or if you would prefer to be anonymous.