Maybe it’s time to throw out R.S.V.P.
08/20/2013 7:51 PM
08/20/2013 7:51 PM
Would you consider not typing any of them?
It is not only that Miss Manners doesn’t think it gracious to type invitations. And while R.s.v.p. is her first choice because it stands for a sentence, the French polite command, “Repondez s’il vous plait,” R.S.V.P. will also do.
But it is amazing how often this is disobeyed. Social scofflaws are more common and more brazen than ever. Gentle Readers report that confronting them no longer produces shame, but rather such insultingly dismissive replies as “I haven’t decided yet” or “Well, I’ll think about it.” (The response to that should be, “Well, it must be a busy time for you, so I’m afraid we’ll have to do without you” – followed by permanent exile from your guest list.)
The widespread rudeness of treating an invitation as if it were an unwanted sales pitch is not why Miss Manners is about to propose an alternative to using R.s.v.p. The rude will be rude anyway, and she does not reward them by abolishing the rules they flout. That would be like dealing with a crime wave by deciding that there is no use having a law against robbery if people are going to commit it anyway.
Rather, she keeps hearing from those who are not clear about what it means.
They know it has something to do with replying to the invitations that carry this notation, and indeed, “R.s.v.p.” is now used in English as a noun (“We sent in the R.S.V.P.”), an adjective (“We ordered RSVP cards”) and a verb (“We RSVP’ed”).
But what, exactly?
Some Gentle Readers are guessing that it means answering only if you are accepting the invitation, and others that it means the same as that awkward phrase “Regrets only” (which casts the host as assuming that those who decline feel regret, when they may not). A few believe that it requires an answer only if the invitation is to a formal event. And an alarming number believe that it means that you may bring along as many other people as you like.
Then there are those who translate the French term for “please” literally, as “if you please,” and therefore claim that they have a choice.
No, they don’t. In a better world, no one would have to be urged to answer any invitation (well, perhaps not an “invitation” to buy something), no matter how significant the occasion. If a colleague asks if you want to go for a cup of coffee, do you just stare back and say nothing?
Miss Manners would like to repeat her long-standing plea that we stop using a foreign phrase and put the request in plain English. The traditional wording is “The favor of a reply is requested.” As a concession to anyone who can’t bear to give up the idea of foreign glamour, she would even overlook using the British spelling, “favour.”
But why not use “Please respond”? Is there anyone who doesn’t understand that?Polite request
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Does a person ask to use the homeowner’s bathroom, powder room or restroom, when visiting their home?
If so, it is a rhetorical question, as hosts would refuse at their own peril. But Miss Manners does not consider it cheeky to assume consent and merely ask where the bathroom is located.
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