Expand your U.K. IQ: Short for thanks? Ta to you
January 25, 2006
“Ta” is a colloquial form of “thank you.” It was originally considered a child’s word, but having been around for a good couple hundred years, it has long since been adopted into informal adult usage. Its brevity makes it suitable only for fairly routine expressions of thanks — if, say, someone had just saved your life, it would seem ungrateful to thank them with “Ta.”
In normal usage however, its value lies in its brevity. It is not easily taken for sarcasm unless very heavily inflected. It sounds friendly and informal and discourages further politeness (such as “Not at all,” or the still somewhat American-sounding “You’re welcome.”)
It thus allows for an immediate change of subject (“Ta. Would you like a cup of tea?”), or even an end to the conversation. If you want to practice using it, try casually saying it as you take your change from a shop assistant and turn to leave.
Though more commmon in the north, the word is used throughout the country.
It can be modified, like “thanks,” by “very much,” but this usage has a distinctly northern flavor to it: “Ta very much, love. Tara, see you tomorrow.”
By the way, “thank” itself originally was just a form of the word “thought.” But the specific sense of a favorable thought, and its development to an expression of gratitude, had taken place by the ninth century.
Anyway, ta for listening, and I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.
Mark Wainwright is a Ph.D. student in the linguistics department at Cambridge University. Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at: UKnews@mail.estripes.osd.mil.