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I have seen and/or heard the sentence "thank you for the kind words" more than once. The context is usually that the speaker is responding to an appreciative comment in a discussion whose overall purpose is different. For instance, I once received this response at a doctor's appointment after an appreciative comment of mine.

This sentence tends to sound a little bit trite to my ears--perhaps even dismissive. But judging by the occasions of use, I think it is used when the speaker is grateful for meaningful encouragement. Do others have the same negative reaction I do, or is this an accepted convention that I am misinterpreting due to lack of familiarity? In the former case, what are better ways of expressing the sentiment?

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I have never seen it used as dismissive. Spoken with a certain tone of voice it could be sarcastic but not written –  mplungjan Jan 23 at 15:51
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It is probably an innocuous attempt to express appreciation in a less trite manner than simply thanks; the road to cliché is paved with innocuous attempts. On the other hand, virtually any word or phrase can communicate something other than its dictionary meaning depending on tone, body language, and so forth, which is why writing is clumsier than speaking and context is so critical to understanding. –  choster Jan 23 at 16:11
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3 Answers 3

If someone said that in reply to what I had said,I would be pleased that what i had said was thought by them to be useful and appreciated etc. If someone didn't say it in reply to what I had said,I would feel that what i had said was not useful or appreciated etc. and that the person was rude and ungrateful.

I hope that what I have said is helpful to you because I'm afraid that I didn't quite understand a couple of your questions.

:)

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Garner's Modern American Usage (Third Edition) has the following suggestion:

"Thank you" remains the best, most serviceable phrase, despite various attempts to embellish it or truncate it: "thanking you in advance" (presumptuous and possibly insulting), "thank you very much" (with a trailer of surplusage), "thanks" (useful on informal occasions), "many thanks" (informal but emphatic), *"much thanks" (archaic and increasingly unidiomatic), *"thanks much" (confusing the noun with the verb), and *"thanx" (unacceptably cutesy).

*is used to show what Garner believes are inferior forms.

I could see "thank you for the kinds words" being a way to add specificity to the sentiment, and the phrase could communicate heartfelt thanks. Still, it reminds me of a Hallmark sympathy card. Without knowing the context or the tone with which it's said, it sounds either affected or stiff.

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It needn't be either affected nor stiff. But it's an interesting entry on the use of thanks. –  virmaior Feb 9 at 15:02
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Do others have the same negative reaction I do, or is this an accepted convention that I am misinterpreting due to lack of familiarity?

No, this phrasing is not negative or dismissive. Saying, "thank you for the kind words" is very sincere and expresses an honest thanks.

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