I’ll Have Some Please, Thank You
By Penny Wiegert
I was at a small meeting with a couple of friends and as we sat around the table, someone said, “Could you pass those papers.” Without even thinking about it before going for the papers I said, “Please.” The other person, surprised, replied, “Yes, pass the papers please.” 
I was suddenly embarrassed as I realized that my mom/grandma brain must have been in high gear. I apologized for being the manner police to adults and then we had a little laugh about it.
The incident made me realize it wasn’t just my own mom brain that popped out of my head and mouth, but all the generations of moms that had imparted those lessons before me, both paternal and maternal. My mom and grandmothers were all adamant about manners and being polite, and anytime a please and thank you were forgotten the reminder came sooner than later. In most households ‘please’ was always the ‘magic word.’
And now that I am a grandmother, I certainly want to pass that etiquette along. However, in this instance, when around a group of adults, I apparently forgot to remind myself that I can turn my mother/grandmother switch to off. But I suppose it’s more of a habit and we all know habits are hard to change. 
I started to think about saying please and what it actually means to say it. 
I write Facebook posts as part of my communications job and I frequently begin posts with “Please join in praying for … ” After one such post, I received a message back which said I should leave off the please as it was implied by the request itself and the person felt like my use of the word please was equal to begging. Does please mean to beg?
In medieval times it was said as a courtesy so as to buffer a request. Understanding that makes prefacing a prayer with please most appropriate. Considering that etymology of the word please is traced to originate around the year 1300 and comes from the word plesen, meaning “to please or satisfy (a deity), propitiate, appease.” From Old French please comes from plaisir “to please, give pleasure to, satisfy.” In Latin please comes from placere “to be acceptable, be liked, be approved,” related to placare “to soothe, quiet.” 
Knowing how we got the word please and all the positive associations of the word, I wonder how it could ever be considered offensive. Oh, I know that tone and inflection and context all play a part in the sincerity and meaning of words of politeness. And even when it is in association with a plea or begging, it’s not always bad. I know when my grandkids want to see what’s in the treat jar at my house, they never forget to say please. Quite typically the word please in that instance is usually said in repeated rapid fire with a graduated volume. That kind of please is definitely begging, but this grammy enjoys it.
But in the context of our relationships, especially our relationship with God, please is something that serves as our sincere invitation as we speak in prayer. I imagine God appreciates a little politeness. I think it is acceptable to preface our requests with please — as in, “if it pleases you God, help us. Please hear our prayers, etc.”
And now as we approach Christmas and the new year, I think we should pull out all the politeness we can muster. Maybe it’s time, after spending so much time apart from in-person gatherings and events, to dust off our manners and really exercise those words of please and thanks. 
As we prepare for the great gift of Jesus we can say, “Please God, know that we prepare for you, we wait for you and we know great joy at the celebration of your birth.” Even if God thinks our pleas and prayers are forms of begging, I would guess he enjoys it as much as a grandmother does. And I am willing to guess that the only words that God enjoys more than please is ‘thank you.’
Please, have a Merry Christmas and a blessed new year. Thank you for reading The Observer.