“Their manners are more gentle, kind, than of our generation you shall find”*…
Larger image available at source, here
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,” 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 as the Inuit hunter made clear, 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…
More of Delancey Place’s instructive excerpt of David Graber’s wonderful Debt – Updated and Expanded: The First 5,000 Years here.
* Shakespeare, The Tempest
As we mind our Ps and Qs, we might recall that it was on this date in 1897 that London taxi driver George Smith smashed his hack into a building on New Bond Street. On being charged with the offense, Smith admitted that he’d had “two or three glasses of beer” and apologized, arguing that “it is the first time I have been charged with being drunk in charge of a cab.” In fact, it was the first time anyone had been charged with drunk driving. Smith was fined 25 shillings.
Larger image available at the source, here