“Please and thank you” is an insult

Those of us with more than an hour’s exposure to the English language have probably heard the terms “please” and “thank you.” Here’s how they’re supposed to be used:

We use please to make a request more polite.

    Can I borrow your pen, please?.


We use expressions with thank you and thanks to respond to something politely and to show we are grateful for something.

There’s a certain amount of debate going on about whether we use “please” and “thank you” too often or not often enough, but the general consensus is that they help make society more livable. Thus, we write children’s books and songs encouraging “please” and “thank you” and program our virtual assistants to give us positive feedback.

And then there’s the other way “please” and “thank you” are used, one which I’m noticing more and more often:

  • “I’d like two packs of Marlboro light, please and thank you.”
  • “Could you come clean this up, please and thank you.”
  • (plops something on the counter) “Please and thank you.”

I’ll quote Urban Dictionary on this, because they have it mostly right:

Please and Thank You

A rude, passive-aggressive amendment, usually found at the end of a imperative sentence, that lets someone know that they will do as you ask. This will typically be learned by administrators, and mangers, working among subordinates or anyone they disdain, because being polite is HR appropriate, but it must be understood that they are peasants. It is implied that while the request is voluntary (i.e. please), the result can be assumed (i.e. thank you), because a peasant has no choice.

The only part of that definition I’d quibble with is that it isn’t just managers or supervisors trying to belittle their subordinates – it’s customers trying to signal dominance over workers. I’ve even heard a couple of my coworkers “please and thank you”-ing customers, maybe unconsciously, maybe in an attempt to push back and signal their dominance.

This is especially irritating to me not just because I’m subjected to it so often, but because I value courtesy and try to practice it, and this is a perversion of courtesy. It’s a way to snarl “kneel and obey, peasant” behind a half-assed pretense of politeness.

To hell with every part of that. Please stop being insufferable dipshits to me and to each other.

Categories: PiecesTags: ,


  1. Featured image by Chris Sabor, on Unsplash.


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