No Worries

“Greetings Comrade! This is Casey from Cleveland. I am coming to Cambridge for a couple of days to attend a conference on climate change. Can I stay with you?”

A typical message from a prospective couchsurfer. Unfortunately, I will be way while Casey’s in town, so I reply, “Thanks for being in touch, but I am not available to host that weekend. Enjoy Cambridge!”

To which Casey responds, “No worries.”

No worries? What does that mean? Does Casey think that telling them I can’t host constitutes a worry for me? Do they think I was going to lose sleep over whether they found another place to stay? Were they simply reassuring me that people who attend climate conferences have clear consciences?

“No worries.” Is a phrase we hear often these days, usually in casual contexts. Along with its ubiquitous corollary: “no problem.” Both phrases are, at a minimum, annoying. Worse, they contort our language, to an effect I cannot understand.

According to Merriam-Webster, worry is an intransitive verb: to afflict with mental anguish: make anxious; and also a transitive verb: to feel or experience concern of anxiety; as well as a noun: mental distress or agitation resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated. In other words, regardless the form of speech, worry is a big deal.

The phrase, “No worries” inherently supposes that something in an interaction rises to the level that worry is warranted, and one party is generously letting the other off the hook. Therein lies the inaccuracy (or perhaps narcissism?) in applying the word “worry” to something as simple as a couchsurf request. A communication that comes nowhere near the realm of things that actually merit worry. If I can host you, cool. If I can’t, so be it. Worry doesn’t factor for either party.

When we lip the phrase, “no worries,” about something too casual to be worrisome, we diminish the potency of the word ‘worry’ for truly terrible impending events. We also elevate our own relative importance by assuming that our little issues impose worry on others.

Perhaps it’s worth thinking twice before bestowing self-inflated absolution.


About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog,, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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