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Nowadays people everywhere will, after a conversation, invite you to 'enjoy the rest of your day'. When on holiday on one occasion I was urged to 'enjoy the rest of your holiday'.

What is the purpose of such expressions which seem to me to be there simply as a way of ending conversations?

Is there a name for such things?

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A sort of (forced or constrained) polite closure. It's a not too subtle cue to end the meeting/small talk and leave. Usually said between acquaintances who have little in common and feel a slight embarrassment (or dread) that they have to strike up a conversation in the first place. Am I right? –  Mari-Lou A Aug 14 at 7:20
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Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. –  Andrew Leach Aug 14 at 20:29
    
@WS2 - Start here -> chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/16443 - this chatroom was created specifically for this thread, and linked above by Andrew Leach. Use the @ symbol to ping a user just like you've been doing in these comments. –  Daniel Aug 18 at 3:48
    
My feeling is that this is actually a "contraction" for I hope that you enjoy the rest of your day. I certainly do not give it any more weight than How are you?, which is really meant as a "Hello" rather than as a question. –  jxh Aug 18 at 21:13

10 Answers 10

up vote -24 down vote accepted

I would never say "enjoy the rest of your day" (ETROYD) to anyone. If a sales assistant says this to me (it always is a sales assistant; their manager obliges them to do it), I think:

-- how impertinent of you to suppose that the enjoyableness of the rest of my day depends on your wishes

-- how disrespectful to assume my life to be about having a good time

-- how presumptuous to assume that I am in any position to enjoy the rest my day, even if that were my purpose.

I know that the sales assistant is not the instigator of this behaviour, so I reply with a courteous "thank you".

To answer your two questions: (1) the purpose of the remark is to make the customer feel loved, and so return to the shop to get more love. (2) Since it is insulting to the customer to expect that he or she will be warmed by a forced insincere formulaic remark, I would call it an insult.

Edit: In view of the response to this post, I have returned to look at it critically. What is wrong with it is that the words "I think" telescope my actual response. The correct expression is "I cringe". The listed thoughts are not permanent statements that I wish to lay down for posterity; rather, they are a caricature of the transient subconscious thoughts that, in my self-analysis, are provoked by ETROYD and cause me to cringe. I stress that I bear no ill will towards sales assistants, or even their managers. I am happy that the majority of people on this site find ETROYD harmless or even pleasant (I only wish I could!).

To maintain the relevance of the comments the above post has drawn, I leave it as it was except to make it clear throughout that I am referring just to ETROYD.

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An insult? Really? Perhaps my skin is a bit too thick, but I've never felt insulted by someone wishing me a nice day whether sincere or not. Perhaps my happiness isn't dependant on the sincerity of others...... –  Elder Geek Aug 15 at 13:39
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+1 and a tick is all I have to give thee, but if it were in my power to award the OBE you'd get it. –  WS2 Aug 15 at 14:35
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@ErikE: (1) No. (2) No. (3) I welcome positive words when they are sincere or where they are conventionally called for. (4) In my family, it is common knowledge that we wish each other well. Our parting greeting tends to be "'bye!", which I do not find offensive in any circumstance. I would prefer that sales assistants were not pressured by their managers to parrot artificial phrases deemed by marketing psychologists to stimulate sales. This is more of a burden on the assistants than an annoyance to the customers. But it's not a big issue for me. –  John Bentin Aug 15 at 20:39
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But what if they genuinely meant it? How impertinent of you to doubt the sincerity of their wish for you to have a good day! Years back we used to say simply 'Good day' as a polite departing phrase. By adding the words "I hope you have a," we have somehow polluted the water? Ridiculous. –  Chris McKeown Aug 15 at 23:34
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I don't think you could really call this an insult unless it was said dripping with sarcasm. I can't say one way or the other whether any specific phrase was researched to most affect customer behavior, but there are a significant number of these statements in use. If you interpret the statement in question as a literal command from the person to forcibly enjoy the rest of your day, you've likely misunderstood the common usage of such phrases. If anything, I would say that "Thank You" from store employees often sounds much more robotic and insincere, though I would not consider it insulting. –  Patrick Aug 17 at 16:13

While it's not specific to ending a conversation, consider pleasantries:

An inconsequential remark made as part of a polite conversation

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@ws2 If your question is not "what are these phrases called, and why do we use them?", but instead "I don't like these phrases: how can we change them?", please update your question to reflect that (so we can close it as off-topic ;). –  Dan Bron Aug 14 at 12:52
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@WS2 Asking if there's a term for these phrases, or even why they exist, is a legitimate, on-topic question for english.SE because it's interesting and adds value. Opining that you dislike such phrases, seeking moral support and legitimization, and soliciting opinions is explicitly off-topic because it damages the community. And clothing the latter in the trappings of the former to skirt the rules is just low. –  Dan Bron Aug 14 at 13:49
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@WS2 Social pleasantries are a kind of lubrication between people, all of whom have different values, thoughts, feelings, intentions, and experiences. They exist to promote harmony. They are a kind of signalling that enables people to not treat others as mere objects but respect them as people, deserving of standard signalling protocol. If someone says, "How's it going" do you not understand he is looking for "Great, and you?", not personal details of your difficult life? If you allow normal social lubrication to be a major irritant, you are going to suffer in life. –  ErikE Aug 15 at 19:42
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@ErikE Thank you for the advice. I have lived nearly 70 years and so far have not 'suffered in life' from a lack of 'social lubrication'. I do not disagree with anything you say. I do however believe that organisations which mandate their staff, either to smile sweetly, or to deliver greetings by rote offer no social lubrication whatever. In fact they are a serious irritant in themselves. Pleasantries have to be genuine and spontaneous in order to work. –  WS2 Aug 15 at 20:56
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@WS2 I think I can appreciate what you're driving at. I, too, hate false sincerity, and am actually a very transparent and earnest person. On the other side of the coin, however, corporations that reach a certain size fall easily into exercising control, because the 1% of employees that do not behave properly when given free reign to express themselves sincerely becomes a significant absolute number (say, 364 incidents of rudeness reported by customers last year), and at that point mandating the exact words of the pleasantry becomes hard to avoid. –  ErikE Aug 15 at 21:43

These phrases are specifically called valedictions (WP) :

A valediction (derivation from Latin vale dicere, 'to say farewell'), or complimentary close in American English, is an expression used to say farewell, especially a word or phrase used to end a letter or message, or the act of saying parting words whether brief or extensive.

As to "why": to explicitly (and politely) inform you that the other party considers the conversation complete and ended: over and out.

Yours sincerely,

-Dan

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'Valediction' sounds excessively portentous to me. Aren't valedictory speeches made by people as their final utterances before they depart this life ? In fairness the OED references would however suggest that American usage may be more everyday. But I for one would not wish to do anything 'valedictory'; not just yet, anyway. –  WS2 Aug 14 at 12:21
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You asked "is there a name for such things?": valedictions is the name for such things. You asked: "What is the purpose of such expressions? They seem to simply be a way of ending conversations": they simply are a way of ending conversations. Such sentinels serve the same purpose and provide the same value as they do in aviation (over and out), they did in Victorian Britain (yr mst hmbl obdt srvt) , as they did in the Roman Empire (vale + diction), and as they will when I press's "send" and my phone posts this comment to the SE servers: </comment> –  Dan Bron Aug 14 at 12:36
    
@WS2 - You're right that deathbed speech is probably the most definitive type of valedictory speech ("VS"), but such speech is not restricted to the dying. In the US, the valedictorian of the graduating class (UK = graduating year/school leavers) customarily addresses the rest of their class, teachers, and the families of the departing students with a VS summarizing their progression coupled with some thoughts on the next phase of their lives. (And there are also other, similarly ritualistic occasions in which people publicly mark a transition from one stage of life to the next with a VS.) –  Erik Kowal Aug 14 at 22:09
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The verbal version of *drops mic*. –  Paul D. Waite Aug 15 at 7:08
    
The pleasantries at the ends of letters (“Sincerely yours”) are also valedictions. The greetings at the beginning are called salutations. –  Bradd Szonye Aug 15 at 22:08

This type of communication is phatic:

ADJECTIVE

Denoting or relating to language used for general purposes of social interaction, rather than to convey information or ask questions. Utterances such as hello, how are you? and nice morning, isn’t it? are phatic.

(Definition from Oxforddictionaries.com.)

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This was Merriam-Webster's word of the day a few years ago; interestingly, they claim it has no direct relation to emphatic. –  AirThomas Aug 14 at 18:28
    
Just because the phrases are phatic, does not mean that phatic is a name for these phrases. The question asks for the name of this type of expression, not an adjective describing them (and others). –  GreenAsJade Aug 18 at 8:54
    
@GreenAsJade -- Then let me dot the I's and cross the T's by classifying them as phatic speech, phatic utterances and/or phatic communication. Please accept my best wishes for your peace of mind. :) –  Erik Kowal Aug 18 at 9:34
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Thanks - but ... that wasn't what I was trying to get across. "Phatic phrases" describes, but does name these utterances. It's like saying that "rectangles" is a name for "shapes with four equal length sides". Sure, they can be described as rectangular, but "rectangle" is not a name for these things. Similarly, phrases that wish you well are only one kind of phatic utterances. "Phatic Utterance" is not a name for "phrases that ask you to enjoy yourself". As you said in the answer "Nice morning, isn't it" is a phatic phrase, but it is not one of the type the question asks about. –  GreenAsJade Aug 18 at 12:18

It's a farewell,

An expression of good wishes at parting

Essentially you are right, it's a polite way to end a conversation.

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I don't find formulaic speech, holding itself out as sincere and genuine, to be in the least bit polite. –  WS2 Aug 14 at 13:36
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@WS2 It's just a different way to say "hello" and "goodbye", do you find them impolite too? –  Tim B Aug 14 at 13:53
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@WS2 Holding it out to be sincere and genuine is exactly what they are not doing. It is most often mere signalling protocol, and it is unfortunate that those who refuse to engage in (or understand the proper place of) standard social signalling will likely encounter social problems throughout life. I personally don't like "thank you for your patience", since how does the person know I didn't wait impatiently, but I understand it, and certainly have no problem with "thank you for waiting". –  ErikE Aug 15 at 19:46
    
@ErikE My wife has a little ritual she goes through with our grandson when she speaks to him on the phone. In order to sign off the conversation they say 'one, two, three, bye' in unison. If what we are concerned with is 'protocol' that would be a better one for commercial people to use! It would avoid the insipid insincerity of 'have a nice day'. –  WS2 Aug 16 at 21:11

You could probably use salutation. Typically it is used to refer greetings at the start of a conversation but can also be used to describe parting phrases such as enjoy the rest of your holiday.

A gesture or utterance made as a greeting or acknowledgement of another’s arrival or departure.

(Source: Oxford Dictionaries)

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Parting phrases are usually called valedictions rather than salutations, but I suppose that either word could fit here. –  Bradd Szonye Aug 15 at 22:10

You could call them benedictions. As to why we have such phrases, it is because we genuinely want to send people with our blessings, to express our good will, and to leave on a happy note. Sometimes we appropriate these warm phrases because we need a more polite way to say, "Shut up and go away," but it would be unduly cynical to say that's all they ever mean.

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But if they are pre-formatted, isn't that exactly what they are? To say 'have a nice day', when for all you are aware, they might have just been given some tragic news, is as bad as saying 'shut up and go away', isn't is? Are there not more genuine ways of blessing people? –  WS2 Aug 14 at 17:15
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It's all in the tone of voice. You really can use a "preformatted" phrase to say something genuinely nice; I know this both because I've heard it and I've done it. You can also be more creative if you want. –  Qaz Aug 14 at 17:52
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@WS2 Perhaps you're looking to expresses the meaninglessness of some farewells, in which case I suggest adding "perfunctory" before any of the answers here. –  Qaz Aug 14 at 19:38

The purpose of the expression is certainly to indicate an ending to an interaction. This would be a closing or a congé.

If it is an overused expression, then it may be considered a platitude.

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Pleasantries. Though contrived, a simple smile and "have a nice day" is certainly a nice, more-formal-than-"Adios Amigo!" way to end a brief conversation, such as at the cashier, bus stop or massage parlour. Part of being a member of a civilized society. Some go overboard with the gooiness, but they're obviously told to do that by a less than effective manager who doesn't know the KISS rule of etiquette.

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Are they not platitudes? Or is that something else?

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This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether. –  Neeku Aug 15 at 15:33
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Welcome to ELU.SE! Please take a moment to find upvoted answers to see the type of answer this site is looking for. We also provide help on answering questions. Answers should ideally include some sort of independent corroboration, correctly referenced. They may well be platitudes, but the Your Answer box is not the place to ask a question. –  Andrew Leach Aug 15 at 15:48

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