On The Phrase “No Worries”


A few years ago I apologized to a friend for not making it to his party, and very effortlessly, he shook his head and said, “No worries.” I had never heard the phrase before and stared at him blankly in astonishment.

“Ooooooh,” I thought to myself, repeating it over and over in my head in a phonetic manner. “Noh Were Eees. Noh Were Eees!” It had such finality to it, such casualness. He had taken all of my fears and social anxieties and swept them away with a mere two words, a paltry nine letters!

What was this magical phrase? What did it mean? How could I, a simple man, harness its great power?

I spent days analyzing it. The phrase seemed to suggest that it was silly for me to be concerned about whatever I thought I did wrong, because he was not concerned, and since there were no residual negative feelings, we could both inhabit this new utopian world that was utterly bereft of worries. It was foolish of me to think there could be worries because there were no worries. What a relief!

The phrase has a two pronged effect. It suggests either that a) It was silly to ever be worried, or b) Even if I was right to be worried, I should not worry now. Has so much ever been packed into two words? Two clean words?

In addition to making the person hearing it feel better, it makes the person saying it look like they don’t have a care in the world, like they can’t be bothered to lower themselves to the petty human emotions that plague us all. Oh to be that person!

I spent the next few weeks using it constantly as though I invented it. I yearned to save it for a friend’s apology, but I’m usually the one who does something wrong, so I had to try it in other situations.

“Sir would you like a receipt?” “No worries!” “Paper or plastic?” “No worries!” “Do you want fries with that?” “Yes, but no worries!” What efficiency! Did you see how I effortlessly dealt with those complicated situations? All those people were really worried about what I thought, but I assuaged whatever guilt they had with my new handy phrase.

I even used it in scenarios where I was clearly at fault. “Why are you always late for work?” “No worries!” “Do you think you should be eating that?” “No worries!” “Why didn’t you pick me up last night?” “Because, you know, no worries.” In trying to make me feel guilty, these poor souls realized that I couldn’t be bothered to question whether I had done something wrong, so I assured them not to worry about it either.

“No worries” is a sophisticated modern version of failed phrases that have come before it, like “No problem” and “It’s water under the bridge.” “No problem” still mistakenly implies that there might have been a problem, which is why it is often followed by: “Who said there was a problem?” “It’s water under the bridge” is flawed because bridges collapse, people jump off bridges, and whenever I’m on a bridge, I naturally look down at the water, so clearly the water still plays an important role. For years we wandered in the dark, searching for the perfect reassurance, until now (apparently it originated in Australia, which I feel the need to mention so they don’t get mad).

Of course one must be careful with the phrase “No worries.” For instance, you should never say “No worries” if there are actually worries to be had, otherwise you’ll later find yourself passive-aggressively getting mad at your friend, and he’ll be taken aback:

“I thought you said ‘No worries.’”

“I may have said ‘No worries,’ but there were worries, plenty of them. You should have seen past that.”

“Well don’t use the phrase ‘No worries’ if there are worries!”

“Fine! Forget about it, it’s water under the bridge.”

You must consider the gravity of the situation when applying the phrase. If somebody killed your dog, slept with your spouse, or enrolled you in a terrorist training camp, you should not try to make them feel better by saying “No worries,” even if it seems really cool. One worry I do have is that people will use the phrase too often in an effort to appear as if nothing bothers them, but this will ultimately backfire, because statistically speaking, there are way more worries to be had than reassurances to be given. That’s just life.

However when used judiciously, “No worries” is like a refreshing beverage for the conscience. Never has there been a phrase which was so effective as a panacea for any kind of uncertainty. I want “No worries” to be the last words I say before I die, I want it to be written on my gravestone, I want God to say it to me after he reviews all my sins. You have no idea how committed I am.

Sometimes, before I go to sleep, I will softly say: “No worries stars, no worries air, no worries noises everywhere.” Then I slowly close my eyes and the nightmares begin.

(I don’t know how to say “No worries” to myself yet.)

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image – tiffa 130