Thank you in advance



I think everyone should thank me early and often, just because it is polite.  Or just thank me for letting you ask. Or just thank me for no reason. Thank yous are not in a finite supply so you need not hoard them for their highest and best use.

But "thank you in advance" is such a curious phrase creeping into our language, and it has me puzzled.  When people thank me "in advance," I feel that I have somehow accepted an unearned credit.  

This phrase is usually tagged on to a request that I do something. The implication is that IF I do the thing I will have EARNED my thank you.  But if not, I will have received an "in advance" thank you that is not truly mine -- and that I have somehow incurred a debt -- or worse, I have taken something that does not yet belong to me.  When I hear those ominous words, thank you in advance, black storm clouds of doubt and uncertainty swirl in my head head as I consider whether to do the thing -- or or incur the consequences.  Hey, wait a minute, is that guilt?

What does it matter if you thank me in ADVANCE or in ARREARS?  Is a thank you more like a mortgage we pay in advance -- or a credit card we pay at the end of the month?  If I really thank you in advance would I say "thank you hello?"  

I HAVE BEEN THANKED IN ADVANCE MORE AND MORE FREQUENTLY LATELY, and I am worried I am losing track of the ones I have earned and those that are undeserved that I really ought to give back.  

Getting a "thank you in advance" is kind of like getting a reminder that a library book is overdue, or seeing flashing lights in the rear view mirror.  None of them make me feel very good!