Pragmatics and Syntax of “Cheers”

So far as I have been able to observe, one says “Cheers!” over here:
  (a) as an alternative to “Thanks!”
  (b) as an alternative to “Goodbye”
  (c) some other times for which I can’t account
  
Does it work as a response to someone else’s thank-you “cheers!” as well — that is, as an alternative to “You’re welcome”? Are there other pertinent usages of which I should be aware?

9 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I have friends here who use “Cheers” as a kind of signing off especially at the end of an email.

  2. Mom, that’s right — like “Goodbye,” but more casual.

    Mark, very true, that usage functions here too, but I’m not confused by it.

  3. Our experience of “Cheers” was a kind of all purpose salutation- the wait staff used it when taking orders and delivering food, our daughter (who spent a year in Nottingham and two in Durham) used it when we exited a taxi, and the usual greeting/leavetaking contexts. Very flexible in meaning and universally appropriate.

  4. Cheers has a long history throughout the Empire of meaning “goodbye”. You might also hear “cheerio” in this context, although that’s possibly more English and maybe even archaic by now. Cheers as thank you is more recent in my neck of the woods (Australia). I first heard it from South Australians and was blaming them, but it sounds as though I’ve been misdirecting the blame. And yes, I’ve also heard it used to mean “you’re welcome”.

  5. Sometimes I get that “cheers!” is a kind of shorthand for, “we agree!” or “right on!” especially when a joke has been shared.

  6. I still reflexively say “Cheers!” when I mean “Thanks!” even though I haven’t lived in Scotland for nearly 20 years. The most natural response to “cheers” as “thanks” for me are a more casual version of “you’re welcome” — e.g., “no problem” or “no worries.” Saying “cheers” in return or saying “you’re welcome” both seem fine, but don’t feel as natural to me.

    And yes, “cheers” might be even more expansive in usage than the Swahili “jambo.”

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