How could that forced negation of a common phrase be interpreted?

This came up as just a part of some free exploration of linguistics, and my friends and I were pondering if it could perhaps be understood as something akin to the English phrase "Thanks, but no thanks" (and understandably it would sound rude). Or would the phrase be just gibberish — even etymologically speaking — to the point where it would be unreasonable to meaningfully use it even in a pun?

  • 2
    I've seen this kind of thing only once - a character in a video game who had the gimmick of always speaking in opposites, highlighted in red. For example, おはようございません. I don't recommend trying it in real life.
    – Angelos
    May 21, 2020 at 23:01
  • 2

5 Answers 5


It's not common at all and I don't remember whether I've heard it in my entire life, but ありがとうございません is not gibberish, and it could pass as a meaningful wordplay to describe ありがた迷惑 if used in an appropriate situation.

"Thanks but no thanks" could be usable in an ordinary conversation, but ありがとうございません is a pure joke and it's never used when you are truly irritated. ございません is a total negation, so perhaps it's semantically more like "I thank you not" or "I'd like to show my appreciation for nothing".

おそようございます (said to someone who is late) is a relatively common parody of Japanese greetings, although something like this is preferred mainly by elementary school kids.

  • 1
    This is an answer I can emphasize with. Personally, I've used this very expression in a few occasions, one of which was when my class mate gave me a funny gift (men's thong) as a joke that they knew I couldn't have possibly wanted, but could appreciate the irony or comic relief that came with the gift itself. Saying something like this is acceptable as a joke but I'd use it very sparingly.
    – Kent
    May 23, 2020 at 1:04

While it’s not impossible to interpret, it is unusual (far more than “thanks, but no thanks”). This is mainly because the grammatical construction of 〜うございます is mostly no longer productive and ありがとうございます is completely lexicalized, so you’re doing something odd to the end of a word. Similar to だいじょばない, perhaps.

You could imagine this being used by an anime character with speech quirks.

I did a quick search and found a book with this title, ありがとうございません (幻冬舎文庫):


Although I haven’t read it, it’s easy to imagine how it’s being used: as a commentary on hyperpoliteness; the need to put on a smile and use polite language, when in reality you are thinking otherwise. This seems like a very effective use of word play to me.

However, it is hard to imagine the use of ありがとうございません in any standard conversation, since even in a joke it’d probably fall flat.


EDIT: sorry, I've rechecked the episode, and he says おはようじゃない. Still negation of a common aisatsu, just not a keigo-negation. The translation stands, though.

Not quite the same, but I've heard "ohayou gozaimasu" followed by "ohayou gozaimasen!!!" in an anime. The second character was obviously trying to convey extreme displeasure with the circumstances, and his astonishment that the other party would treat the situation as nothing but ordinary.

It translates to English perfectly:

  • Good morning!
  • No, BAD morning!

While grammatically correct, it sounds completely unnatural because it's never used in practice. Someone hearing this will definitely think you are playing with words, distorting ありがとうございます as part of a joke, probably to mean you are not thankful, but it depends on the context. It's pretty non standard so using it to try to convey "thanks, but no thanks" will probably just make the recipient confused about what you mean.

A closer English equivalent is something like "thank you very little".


context is key here... as stated that's like a robot saying "Thank you" for holding still while it rips your arm off. It's technically correct... so much technically that it fails to be practical or meaningful in any way other than showing the strict adherence to the rules of the language.

Would a native speaker understand it? Sure, then they'd look at you like you head 2 heads and neither got a proper education. Or that you were telling a bad joke. They wouldn't take you seriously at all.

If you're looking for a similar phrase to "Thanks but no thanks" while being a funny ass you might try はんぱありがと which depending on centext would be "Half a thanks!"

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .