SOCIAL COMMENTS - SAYING PLEASE AND THANKYOU
saying "please" and "thank you" is not a universal custom -- there are societies such as the Inuit, where it is not the case. In fact it first took hold in Western society during the commercial revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as evidence of the democratization of society -- our desire to view everyone as equals. Before that, saying please and thank you was a way to show deference to a lord or master. "Thank you" derives from "think," and it originally meant, "I will remember what you did for me"-- and "please" is short for "if you please," "if it pleases you to do this":
"Consider the custom, in American society, of constantly saying 'please' and 'thank you.' To do so is often treated as basic morality: we are constantly chiding children for forgetting to do it, just as the moral guardians of our society -- teachers and ministers, for instance -- do to everybody else. We often assume that the habit is universal, but ... it is not. Like so many of our everyday courtesies, it is a kind of democratization of what was once a habit of feudal deference: the insistence on treating absolutely everyone the way that one used only to have to treat a lord or similar hierarchical superior.
"In fact, the English 'please' is short for 'if you please,' 'if it pleases you to do this' -- it is the same in most European languages (French s'il vous plait, Spanish por favor). Its literal meaning is 'you are under no obligation to do this.' 'Hand me the salt. Not that I am saying that you have to!' This is not true; there is a social obligation, and it would be almost impossible not to comply. But etiquette largely consists of the exchange of polite fictions (to use less polite language, lies). When you ask someone to pass the salt, you are also giving them an order; by attaching the word 'please,' you are saying that it is not an order. But, in fact, it is.
Author: David Graeber
Debt: The First 5,000 Years
by David Graeber by Melville House
Hardcover ~ Release Date: 2011-07-12
Page 6 of 7