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I read at several places that "don't mention it" is equal to "you're welcome". But for me, the word means something like "don't go around talking about this to anyone". So what is the real meaning of the phrase and how does it fit in as a response to "thank you"?

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7 Answers 7

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It doesn't at all mean "don't go around talking about this to anyone." It is in fact much closer to "you're welcome."

When you are telling someone "don't mention it", what you are telling them not to mention is the 'thank you' itself -- you are saying "Your thanks isn't necessary. I was glad to do it, so you didn't need to mention your thanks."

(Note: This is just an expression. It's definitely a good idea to express thanks when someone does something for you; "don't mention it" really just means "you're welcome; glad to do it.")

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Indeed, even if someone says "don't mention it", if you chose not to mention it, they would most likely be quite offended. –  Paul Wagland Feb 1 '12 at 18:19
    
It's common to acknowledge thanks by denigrating the significance of the original favor (in comparison, I suppose, to the recipient's deserts, not on any absolute scale). "Don't mention it", "No problem", "My pleasure", "It was nothing." In Spanish, you say, "De nada" ("for nothing"); in Italian, "niente" ("Nothing"). –  Malvolio May 30 '12 at 0:51
    
Personal opinion: I never liked "Don't mention it." or "It was nothing.", unless the favor was genuinely effortless. I prefer things like "You're welcome" or (If I really was glad) "I was glad to help." or "My pleasure." In more formal settings like customer service, I might go so far as "You're welcome. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you." –  TecBrat Jul 10 '12 at 16:48
    
@PaulWagland: That may depend upon what the person is doing. If Bob visits someone's shop and sees that Joe has produced something Bob requested and but a "Bob" label on it, and if Joe happens to be busy at the time, Joe might in fact prefer that Bob not disturb him purely for the purpose of offering thanks. That doesn't mean he wouldn't want Joe to show some appreciation in other ways at other times, but he may prefer to minimize social niceties when he's trying to focus on work. –  supercat Jan 17 at 22:50

In this context, the phrase Don't mention it means "no need to say thank you."

In other words, "you don't need to mention 'thank you', I didn't do it so you would say 'thank you'."

This is meant in the nicest possible way.

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"Don't mention it", along with "please", "thank you", "you're welcome", "good morning", "how do you do", "lovely weather we're having", "we must have lunch some time" and many many more are phatic expressions. They don't mean anything, and are not meant to mean anything. They exist solely to oil the social wheels.

The fact they don't mean anything doesn't mean it is all right to omit them, however.

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What if you really do want to have lunch with the person? Does it still count as a phatic expression? –  JAB Jul 20 '11 at 14:33
    
If I really do want to have lunch with someone, I wouldn't use "we must have lunch some time." The implication is some indefinite future. It implies that you want to keep a connection with the person, but not a close one. Instead I might say, "Let's have lunch [next week]" or "Want to have lunch some time?" –  mkennedy Jul 20 '11 at 16:15
    
Then she handed me twenty-dollars for a two-fifty fare... –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jul 20 '11 at 22:00

"Don't mention it" has the connotations of "not a big deal." It perhaps corresponds to the German "Es macht nichts," and its figurative meaning is "you're welcome."

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Other phrases that carry similar meaning are "think nothing of it," "it's nothing," "not at all," and "no problem." Likewise, a common replacement for the French "merci bien" (thank you very much) is "de rien" (it's nothing).

The meaning behind all these phrases is that the thing done was so small or so little trouble that no gratitude is required.

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A better direct translation of de rien would for nothing, as in "Thanks." "...for nothing!" Somewhat strangely "Thanks for nothing" means pretty much the exact opposite in English, i.e. that what you did deserves the opposite of thanks. (What ever that it.) –  ThePopMachine Feb 7 '12 at 4:20

The expression don't mention it is in the meaning as that's too little to mention.

There are similar thank you responses in other languages, like the German nights zu danken (too little to thank for) or Swedish det var så lite så (that was so little).

Common in these expressions is to belittle ones own deed, which should not really be taken literally as that would also belittle the gratitude, but rather in the sense of I'm glad that such little effort on my part could help you so much.

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This is what Sheldon Cooper would have said - it's a non optional social convention.

http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0064640/quotes

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protected by RegDwigнt Feb 7 '12 at 11:56

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