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6:33 PM Fri, Sept. 21st

Dear Annie: Dessert’s not the problem

Dear Annie: My husband and I have both been married before, and our children are from our first marriages. My husband’s daughter lives close by, and she brings her kids to our home often, which we all enjoy. The problem is that every time they show up — even when they know we are preparing a meal for them, even prior to big holiday meals — they get out of their car with empty bags and partially consumed beverages from a popular fast-food chain.

This drives me insane! My husband just shrugs and says that there’s a reason they are all overweight and that nothing we say or do will change their behavior. When his daughter asked me not to always make a dessert to accompany our otherwise healthful meals because she was worried about “how big the kids are getting,” I had a heart-to-heart with her about how awful the fast food is for the kids. Her reply was that she just can’t say “no” to her kids and is just too tired to cook. I told her that is why we are trying to help by making meals for them. No change. What now? — Fed Up in Florida

Dear Fed Up: It’s considerate of you to cook healthful meals for your family, and it was thoughtful of you to have a heart-to-heart with your daughter-in-law about this sensitive issue. Your husband might consider periodically encouraging her to stay strong in teaching her children better eating habits, reminding her that she’s the boss -- and that her children in fact need her to be the boss.

But in the end, there’s nothing you can do to force her to stop buying fast food. The only person you can control is yourself. The sooner you accept this the sooner you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the time with your family.

Dear Annie: I must disagree with your assessment that “no problem” means the same thing as “you’re welcome.” The phrase “no problem” carries with it the implication that if the task had created a “problem” for the server (or whoever uttered it), perhaps she might not have carried it out so nicely — or at all.

“You’re welcome,” on the other hand, has a much more gracious implication: that the person would have done this task for you no matter the cost to herself.

Words matter, and there is no use pretending that they don’t carry a lot of freight. Better to use them thoughtfully. — English Major

Dear English Major: I see no evidence that “no problem” carries that implication, but I love a good linguistic debate, so I’m printing your letter — followed by a different viewpoint.

Dear Annie: “Out of Touch” was annoyed that a popular response to “thank you” is “no problem.” My husband and I were annoyed by that also, until I realized that the traditional replies in French are “jet’en prie,” which is somewhat equivalent to “don’t worry about it,” and “de rien,” “of nothing.” In Spanish, “de nada” also means “it was nothing.” So maybe it’s not a millennial thing. Maybe it’s cultural, global stuff and millennials are really sophisticated! OK, I went too far with that.— Ann-Marie

Dear Ann-Marie: Merci beaucoup for the language lesson.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.