Q: Why must one say “please” with “May I have a glass of water?” It sounds like begging; it is begging. If I said “pretty please,” you’d know that was begging.
I’ve always told my kids, “Don’t say ‘please,’ but always say ‘thank you.’ ” Another child’s mom makes them say please, and I say, “Tell her mom that you were not aware you had to beg for water.” Of course, they say please, just to get on with it.
When people say “please” to me, I always respond, “You do not need to say please.”
“It’s polite,” they say. It may be polite, but it’s still begging. What do you say?
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A: That it is a good thing for your children that they have the sense to disobey you about this. You are trying to deny them an extremely simple way to avoid annoying others. “Please” is simply the conventional term for softening requests to indicate that one is not just ordering people around.
But Miss Manners is in total agreement with you that begging, on the part of those who are not in dire need, is abhorrent and unfortunately prevalent in today’s society. So, have you forbidden your children to announce what they would like to be given in the way of presents? Have you taught them never to try to solicit funds for luxuries for themselves?
Q: This year, my mother has told us exactly what she wants for Mother’s Day, what she wants us to do and what we may not give her.
I think that what to do is our decision, and that gifts (or, more to the point, kind actions) have no meaning if the giver has not chosen to do so and was instead told by the receiver to do as such. We are insecure about this particular difference of opinion.
A: Oh, right: It is not just children who need to understand that asking people to give them things is a form of begging. And if it is hard for parents to teach this to children, it is nigh impossible for children to teach this to parents.
Understanding that peace in the family is a consideration, Miss Manners suggests that you sit down with your mother and tell her that you actually enjoy thinking of ways to please her, and would appreciate some general guidelines of what she likes so that in the future you may do a better job of it.
Q: What is the proper time frame to send out thank-you notes after a baby shower?
A: You probably expect tender-hearted Miss Manners to do whatever she ethically can to lessen the burden on expectant mothers.
No such luck. The most she will concede is that if the guest of honor is exhausted after the shower, she may wait until the next morning to write the hostess and those who gave her presents. If this is put off any longer, the lady will argue that she doesn’t feel well, she has too much to do to get ready for the baby, and then that she is too busy caring for the baby. And her example risks condoning thanklessness in yet another generation.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.