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How “Thank You” is Understood

Updated: Nov 26, 2022


If someone were to ask you how many times a week you hear the words “thank you,” what do you think that number would be? (I hope that it is many.) The phrase “thank you” is so integral as a social glue that we may find ourselves making certain global assumptions about the attitude of gratitude that are not entirely accurate.


In Western English-speaking societies, expressing gratitude for the service of others is the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie; it keeps our relationships smooth and sweet, but it is possible that gratitude may take on different flavors in various cultures and languages. In the article, “Is Gratitude Universal?” by Annelise Jolley, it is pointed out that “thank you” cannot always be directly translated. For example, in Japan and Korea the term that is used for “thank you” is also used for “I’m sorry.” A diversity of flavors abounds.


Could our concept of gratitude be expanded by learning how it is expressed in other cultures? We are reminded in The Urantia Book of the importance of the expansion of languages—that the repleteness of language plays a role in the development of civilization (81:6.16 (908.5)). Researchers will surely study how gratitude is expressed and manifests around the world, but you too, can explore this concept in your mind.


—Alice Wood, UUI program coordinator


“Is Gratitude Universal” by Annelise Jolley



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