General Question

AstroChuck's avatar

Why do we always have to say please??

Asked by AstroChuck (37461points) February 21st, 2009 from iPhone

Yes, I know that it’s polite, but what is its purpose? Why isn’t asking for something enough? How long have people said please? What’s its history?
Also, why tell people your welcome after you’ve been thanked? Shouldn’t these words just be assumed? Why has it evolved that you must say these things or you’re considered inconsiderate?

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32 Answers

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

It’s to weed out the insensitive and inconsiderate.

tinyfaery's avatar

We say please, thank you and your welcome to keep from killing each other. Without these two little words we could construe any request as a demand and we could assume that our efforts were unappreciated.

augustlan's avatar

Because I like to hear it, whispered in my ear ;)

poofandmook's avatar

because “fuck off” might be considered too aggressive.

AstroChuck's avatar

@tinyfaery- We say them because we’ve been raised in a society that tells us it’s right to do so and we wish to be polite. I understand that much. My question is how did we get there in the first place?
And if I ask you to help me do something without saying please, how is that mistaken for a demand?

eponymoushipster's avatar

The hookers always tell me they like it, so i do it.

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

It’s from the Jewish in that you must always get in the last woid.

90s_kid's avatar

Well, I know that in China or Japan, “thank you” is disrespectful. They just bow or something.

{Edited}
SOMEONE PLEASE JUST GOOGLE IT!

ubersiren's avatar

I recently read an article about how you shouldn’t force your kid to say “please” and “i’m sorry” because they very well could not mean it. There’s no sense in forcing a kid to say something without sincerity, you know? That’s just therapy waiting to happen. I’m sure as hell not apologizing to someone if I don’t mean it.

AstroChuck's avatar

@ubersiren- I understand why we say we are sorry. We are expressing an emotion, that being sorrow. I also understand expressing thanks. It’s a way to show appreciation. But using please when asking for something confounds me.

@90s_kid- The Japanese bow.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@90s_kid …and the Chinese curtsy. daintily.

steelmarket's avatar

I believe that the original context of please was that you were asking permission, to have your request approved..

“c.1325, “to be agreeable,” from O.Fr. plaisir (Fr. plaire) “to please,” from L. placere “to be acceptable, be liked, be approved…” Entymology Dictionary

gailcalled's avatar

(we say, “You’re welcome” and s’il vous plaĆ®t.”)

“You are welcome” is pretty clear. And so is “if it pleases you.”

And the lingua franca of the Jews is Yiddish. There is no language called Jewish. Hebrew and Aramaic are the OT languages.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Saying “please,” I feel, is both an acknowledgment that this might be a bother to the person you’re asking the favor from and a preemptive show of appreciation for that favor.

Basically, “please” butters someone up to do you a solid. Like Marlon Brando! I bet he said please to Maria… oh, wait, no, he just used butter. Never mind.

eponymoushipster's avatar

in Russian and Ukrainian, “please” and “you’re welcome” are the same word as well.

Yiddish is written with the Hebrew alphabet.

skfinkel's avatar

When you are asked for something by a child, do you prefer a child saying “give me this” or “please give me this”? It’s pretty obvious when thinking about a child somehow, and then you just square or cube that effect from an adult.

AstroChuck's avatar

@gailcalled- I see my mistake with your (it’s a pet peeve of mine. Shame on me!), but the topic section doesn’t accept punctuation, so it was either sil or s il. I thought that s il looked more like s’il.
Also, where did the “Jewish” language comment come from?

AstroChuck's avatar

@skfinkel- “Give me this.” is a command. “May I have this?” is a request. Of course I would like my child to use please. I use please because I’m from a society that has instilled it in me. I’m only asking why society has evolved where we are supposed to use it.

Jayne's avatar

Using a word such as ‘please’ recognizes that it is not the other person’s duty to perform the favor they have. It sets the listener on the same level as the speaker. As such, polite language can perform two conflicting roles- it can set a strata of society apart from the rest (in fact, in this capacity ever more elaborate forms of civility may be developed to create, in effect, a private language exclusive to the upper echelons of society), or, in filtering down to the lower classes, it can serve as a means by which those classes can lift themselves up, and eventually as a token of acceptance by the upper class as it recognizes the equalization of society.
You asked for social development, I gave you social development.

jlm11f's avatar

They actually do not say please everywhere. I know it is a lot less common in India. There, you usually just ask for something minus the word, and no one takes it as an offense and I am talking about when people are speaking English. People don’t expect or need a “please.” I don’t think any side is better or more “right” but I do think that when someone does say please or thank you there, it has more meaning. I sometimes feel that we say thank you so often here that it has kind of lost its meaning. If I think about it, I probably say “Thank you” about 20+ times a day, when someone gives me anything from a receipt to keeps the door open for me. The whole thing seems so trained and automatic. “Have a nice day” “Thanks you too.” Neither side actually thinks “I hope you really do have a nice day” or “yeah i hope you do too!” It’s robotic. Sorry, I went off on a tangent there…kinda lost my point

AstroChuck's avatar

Does the “tradition” of saying the word, ”please” originate in the western world?

Grisson's avatar

Because it’s ‘The magic word’. My Mom said so.

ubersiren's avatar

@AstroChuck : My answer was sort of off topic. To answer your question, “please” I would think stemmed from “plea” which is to beg. So, really I don’t know why it taught to us as politeness. Maybe it’s just to show that we really want something, and we’re not asking for something frivolous and wasting the person’s time.

Harp's avatar

Linguistic politeness in general stems from a notion that we’ve kind of lost sight of here in America, namely “saving face”. This is the principle that in any kind of ordinary social exchange, all parties to the exchange should emerge with their social status intact. “Saving face” doesn’t involve just watching out for your own status, it means also doing whatever is necessary to keep the other party’s social “face” intact. This is a way of ensuring ongoing cooperation.

Other times and cultures have formalized this business of saving face to a much greater extent than we now do, especially those that have emphasized social organization and favored cooperation over individuality. Americans are more individualistic and competitive, so less attention is paid to keeping cooperative channels open. Compare that to the vivid concept of face in Asian cultures and you’ll see what I mean.

So in both “please” and “you’re welcome”, the speaker is declining a position of superiority that would cost face to the other party. The cooperative spirit is preserved.

wundayatta's avatar

If you don’t say “please,” then it’s a command. It says that you have the right to order the other person around. If you say “please,” then you are acknowledging equal status.

We tell our children to say “please,” but how often do we say it when we ask them to do something? I have a theory that in families who are bringing their kids up to be future leaders, the parents will say “please,” indicating that the children are of equal status (even though they aren’t, yet).

In families where “please” is not used, they are bringing their kids up (subconsciously) to take orders. They are more likely to become workers subject to the orders of others.

Please is probably used more often in “polite” society. I would say that middle class families are more likely to be “please” sayers. The wealthy are used to giving orders, and feel they don’t have to say it, and the working and lower class people, on average, either haven’t been brought up to say it, or don’t see the point, since they tend to be in situations where they have to take orders, and there is a presumed inequality of status.

I’ll bet that some people will interpret what I say as classism, and protest that we don’t have classes in the United States. I would say that if we truly had equal access to education, and that if intelligence weren’t heritable (whatever the hell intelligence is), and that if coming from a family with an educated father didn’t endow the children with a great advantage in life (for some reason, children’s success is not correlated with the mother’s education level), then we could move towards a less class delineated society, but none of those things are true, and we do have classes, and please is used more often, I would guess, by the middle classes than any of the other classes, because creating the illusion of equality is more important in that class.

AstroChuck's avatar

@daloon- Would you explain how by not saying please it makes asking for something a command?

I mean would you please explain how?

wundayatta's avatar

Since you asked nicely…

mattbrowne's avatar

Rituals strenghten the bonds of social groups.

marina64's avatar

Asking “please” is most likely an abbreviation of “please me.” If you do this, you are pleasing me. So, to please, do this. You are telling the person of whom you’ve made the request that their actions will result in pleasure to you. Likewise, “if you please” is likely to mean “if you are in the mood to give me pleasure by fulfilling this request.”

Mcot's avatar

Please is begging (May I Have something) is the proper manors, Please is an old layover from the feudal system of Lords and peasants. Proper etiquette is simply to ask in a polite grammatically correct manner

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