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Would you like to have a cup of tea?

Sure. Thanks!

Would you like to have a peg?

No, thanks!

When someone offers me a peg, I first deny the proposal and then say thanks. Why? Because he offered me something.

But then, there exists a response...

Thanks, but no thanks!

What's that? Is that second 'thanks' is redundant?

While I understand no thanks (it already includes thanks), I wonder what first 'thanks' is doing there?

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    To clarify for non-British-English speakers (including myself), "a peg" means "an [alcoholic] drink", as per merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peg, def 5. – mskfisher Jan 7 '15 at 17:06
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    I'm a british english speaker and I had no idea that a peg was a drink. I assumed clothes peg but also figured it didn't much matter. :) – Chris Jan 9 '15 at 12:53
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I think that "Thanks, but no thanks! " means:

"Thank you for the offer, but no thanks to the offer". "No thanks" is kind of a "set phrase" I guess, so we include the thanks again even though we've already said it once at the start.

It is true that you can say "Thanks, but no", however it sounds a bit firm.

EDIT: As has been discussed in the comments, many other native speakers believe that almost the opposite is true: "Thanks, but no" sounds sincere, and "Thanks, but no thanks" sounds sarcastic. However, we all agree that it depends dramatically on the way in which it is said.

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    "Thanks, but no" sounds perfectly natural to me (native speaker of British English). "Thanks, but no thanks" can sound a little sarcastic; removing the second "thanks" avoids that. – David Richerby Jan 7 '15 at 11:23
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    Really? I think "Thanks, but no" sounds sarcastic. And I'm also a native speaker of English (Australian). – AStupidNoob Jan 7 '15 at 11:26
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    Interesting. To me, "Thanks, but no" is a firm but polite way of saying "I appreciate your offer but I'm declining." For example, I'd use it if I'd already declined something at least once but the person kept offering it. "Thanks but no thanks" comes across, to me, as "Actually I don't appreciate your offer but I feel like I ought to thank you anyway." But, of course, that's very dependent on tone of voice and everything else. (BTW, the downvote wasn't mine.) – David Richerby Jan 7 '15 at 11:33
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    Yeah, I see your point. I guess what I meant was that "Thanks, but no" sounds a bit firm to me. But I really don't get that feeling of sarcasm from "Thanks, but no thanks", but yeah you're totally right, it depends entirely on tone of voice. I've just never heard it said that way before. (Thanks, that makes me feel a bit better. I really hate the down-vote system on SE, it really puts me off from replying to other questions) – AStupidNoob Jan 7 '15 at 11:36
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    "Thanks, but no thanks" sounds sarcastic to me (native AmE, midwestern). – Ben Kovitz Jan 7 '15 at 16:55
14

Thanks, but no thanks!

In the first thanks you say thank you for asking.

The second but no thanks! specifies that you are not interested.

so, Thank you, but I'm not interested!

  • 2
    that is a literal translation but the implied meaning is that you didn't appreciate the offer. So a potential gotcha for non-native speakers – JamesRyan Jan 7 '15 at 17:33
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    @JamesRyan I disagree that it conveys that you didn't appreciate the offer. It exists to emphasize appreciation of the offer—and although "no thanks" does in principle say it all, that's such a routine, boiler-plate phrase that the sentiment of thanks tends to be overlooked. The phrase can be used sarcastically, like almost anything, and whether it is sarcastic or not depends entirely on context, as with everything: by default, I would say not. – jez Jan 7 '15 at 20:30
  • @Jez a native speaker in England would read it as sarcasm by default and it would very rarely not be intended that way. A more genuine response would be "thank you, no" or "thank you, but no". At the very least you need to be aware that it can have either meaning. – JamesRyan Jan 8 '15 at 10:57
  • @JamesRyan this native speaker from England still disagrees (so at the very least let the record show that it is debatable). As a side point I think it's misleading to flag written phrases as sarcastic in general. As a general rule, I do not think that phrases can be sarcastic in and of themselves—e.g. when written down without context. That's surely the whole point and definition of sarcasm, i.e. that you cannot tell from the words themselves, without context/tone, whether they're intended seriously or not. – jez Jan 8 '15 at 22:29
  • @jez when it is a stock phrase that is used most commonly in a particular context then that context is implied if no other context is apparent. – JamesRyan Jan 9 '15 at 11:00
8

We often use redundancy for emphasis. If you say, "Bob was a rude and nasty person", it is likely that you are not thinking of "rude" and "nasty" as being two distinct aspects of his personality. You are basically just saying the same thing twice for emphasis. Similarly, "It was a twisty winding road." "It was wet and rainy." Etc etc.

In this case, as others have noted, the meaning depends on how it is said and the context in which whatever is under discussion was offered. But if you said, "Thanks, but no thanks" in a neutral tone, I think people would understand that to mean "thank you for your offer, but I don't want it". Yes, "No thanks" by itself expresses the same idea. But the extra "thanks" adds a level of politeness. The person says thanks twice to emphasize that he really is grateful for the offer, but chooses not to take advantage of it.

If said in a sarcastic tone of voice, this would indicate that you are not really grateful for the offer. "If you just agree to resign, we won't prosecute." "Gee, thanks, but no thanks. I think I'll fight it out." But that would be true if you just said "no thanks" by itself in a sarcastic tone. In this case doubling the thanks might double the sarcasm rather than doubling genuine gratitude.

7

But then, there exists a response...

Thanks, but no thanks!

Yes, you are right. 'Thanks but no thanks' is a response. It is an idiom. It is a phrase. It is an expression.

As such, the whole unit ('thanks but no thanks') expresses a certain meaning.

According to the free dictionary, the response is "A way of turning down something that is not very desirable."

Two examples are given:

Alice: How would you like to buy my old car? Jane: Thanks, but no thanks.

and

John: What do you think about a trip over to see the Wilsons? Sally: Thanks, but no thanks. We don't get along.

Other examples show this to be the meaning:

1 Thanks but no thanks: Pakistan PM shuns Indian limo for Nepal summit

Here, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ... turns down an offer to borrow a bulletproof limousine lent by Pakistan's arch rival, India.

2 When the cooking was done, Margarita attempted to get me to eat the stuff. I said "Thanks but no thanks"... "Want some," [Margarita] asked, with salaciously puckered lips. Again I responded with a "thanks, but no thanks." (Pandemic of Lies: The Exile).

The phrase is used to turn down an unwanted offer.

So what if it incudes the same word twice? As StoneyB points out,

we are speaking language, not logic.

We often use "redundancy" to express emphasis. If Fred's wife is very pleased with a gift that Fred bought for her, is Fred going to find fault if his wife says:

'Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you. I love you. I love you. I love you'?

When Shakespeare writes:

That was the most unkindest cut of all (Julius Caesar),

are we to fault him for not sticking with either 'the most unkind cut' or 'the unkindest cut'? Why the heck was he using a pleonasm?

The function of language is to communicate meaning. To do so, we use expressions. Such expressions, when looked at in terms of logic, may contain "unneeded words." In fact, we express ourselves this way all the time.

In the first comment to this question, tchrist writes

Despite protestations to the contrary,

To which someone responds: Isn't "to the contrary" a pleonasm here? I mean, a protestation is always to the contrary, isn't it?

So what. Are we speaking language or logic?

Else, are people going to point out that when I said whole unit way above, that the word whole was unnecesary?

This use of "pleonism" is not restricted to English. In the story from Matthew 2,

When they saw the star, [the wise men] rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

This is the King James Version of the Bible. The translators didn't think to avoid a pleonism when translating from the Greek. (Although more recent translations have avoided the "dreaded pleonism.")

But the Greek faithfully records what is a frequent usage in Hebrew: that of pleonism to show emphasis.

So, in thanks but no thanks, is one of the thanks redundant? No. Not if by redundant you mean using an established phrase to express meaning in a certain context, that of turning down an unwanted or undesired offer.

3

I think this expression may be so popular because it has both a polite interpretation and a very nasty one. I am under the impression that it is used primarily when the speaker is angry and probably has the nasty interpretation in mind.

Polite interpretation

The extra thanks is in fact just redundant. Thanks, but no and no, thanks are combined into a single phrase which has the same meaning but is slightly more polite in that it uses thanks twice. The fact that normally the phrase seems to be picked when the speaker would be less likely than usual to be polite suggests that this is not the intended meaning, though it makes it easy to plausibly deny that the second meaning is intended.

Impolite interpretation

No thanks is to be read as the phrase is normally written in this context, without the comma. And it means: I am not going to thank you for what you have said or done. In order to keep up the appearance of politeness, the speaker throws in the phrase thanks, but, which often doesn't really sound polite any more but has just become a way of saying no and adding an explanation. So the speaker is combining something rude with something neutral in such a way that the result is ambiguous and sounds as if it might be meant politely. This explains why this is often said in a sarcastic tone.

2

"Thanks, but no thanks" is an idiom used to decline a very undesirable thing. The emphasis is on the word no.

For example, if someone offered me a peanut butter sandwich, I would say "No thanks."

But if they offered it to my friend who is allergic to peanuts, he might say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

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    No, not really. As a native English speaker I'd usually interpret the "Thanks, but" part as an emphasis of your appreciation of the offer, not as an indicator that the offer was unwelcome. Whether it's sarcastic or not depends on context and tone of voice—it could be—but by default that's not what this construction exists to convey. (And sure, the "thanks" at the end also indicates appreciation of the offer, but it's so routine as to have become invisible—hence the need for emphasis sometimes.) – jez Jan 7 '15 at 20:24

protected by Maulik V Jan 8 '15 at 18:05

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