1.2 On Saying ‘Please’- Notes

Words of Courtesy & their usage/purpose –

1] Thank you – To express gratitude

2] Please – A polite addition to requests

3) Excuse me – To politely get someone’s attention

4) Hello – To Acknowledge others 

5)You are welcome – To express gratitude

6) Sorry – To apologise when something goes wrong.

7) Excuse me – To take permission to go ahead or to ask something

8) My pleasure – To tell you are happy to help or do a favour

Summary of the story

One morning a lift man in a city office, threw a passenger out of the lift. The passenger did not use the polite word, please. Instead, he ordered him to take to the top floor. The liftman wanted him to say – ‘top, please’ instead of just top. The passenger refused his demand. The lift man hurled him out of the lift. Later this lift man was fined accordingly.

The first and foremost requirement of Civility is that we should accept service by saying, ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please’ These little courtesies not only sweeten our life, but also make it run smoothly. A friendly request for a service is more workable than giving an order.

The author quotes an example of a polite bus conductor However, we find unpleasant bus conductors in rare cases. They regard the passengers as their staunch enemies. They Shout at the passengers and cheat them but a polite and cheerful bus conductor makes the journey easy and pleasant. One day the author boarded a bus in a hurry. He left home without any money in his pocket.

The conductor did not make a fuss. He rather booked him through he gave him the ticket not caring for the repayment of the money. Just then the author found a Shilling in his pocket. He settled the account. He even remained thankful to the conductor for his good-natured action. A few days later, while travelling, the author’s toe was trampled by the heavy boots of the same conductor.

His anger cooled down when the conductor apologized to him. A journey with that Noble conductor was a lesson in natural courtesy and good manners. If bad manners are infectious, so also our good manners. An uncivilized fellow leaves his imprint on us and we are likely to be rude. On the other hand, a cheerful fellow affects more like a fine day.

If the lift man would have tolerated the passenger politely. He would have gained victory. Not only on his enemy passenger but over himself also.

To be civil to others is a social practice. Though there is no law which compels us to say please, or thank you, there is a social practice which is more sacred than any law which expects us to be civil and to acknowledge a service. In the case of the lift-man, the passenger was being uncivil and rude to him. So, most people would sympathise with the lift-man.

During Chesterfield’s time, who was a famous writer, the streets of London were without pavements. Pedestrians had a tough time walking on the road. Those who were closest to the wall had the driest foot. Once a man who came from the opposite direction told Chesterfield that he never gave the wall to a scoundrel.

Chesterfield politely stepped aside saying that he always did. That was revenge enough, but done in a very apt yet a polite, civil manner. This was the spiritual victory achieved by Chesterfield.

Gardiner may be suggesting that just as the lift-man lost his patience and peace of mind. The conductor on the other hand remains morally upright. He is sensible enough to know when he has made a mistake and when he must apologize. Unlike the lift-man who has taken matters personally and as a result has broken the law.

This essay tells us the value of good manners. Bad manners are not a legal crime. But a man with bad manners is disliked by everybody. A liftman was punished for throwing an ill-mannered person out of the lift. The liftman was wrong because he had used violence. If a person is hurt physically, he can go to the law. Bad manners create a chain reaction, so do the good manners. So, we should reply bad manners with good manners.

  • Moral/Lesson

-Learn to be as polite as possible, but also to accept impoliteness when it occurs, as a part of life.

-Use polite words to make other people feel appreciated and respected.

Meanings –

Discourtesy             – not polite, rudeness

assault and battery– an attack which includes threats & use of violence

burglar                    – thief

humility                  – quality of not being proud

retaliate                  – to do something bad to someone who has done something

                                   bad to you

assailant                  – an attacker

violence                   – action or feeling that causes damage, unrest etc

to box                      – to fight with the fists (closed hands)

haughty                   – a high opinion of oneself and often a low position of


self-esteem              – individual’s evaluation of one’s own worth

boorish                    – rude, uncultured

laceration                – hurt feelings

gratitude                 – quality of showing appreciation, kindness

slur                          – a cause of blame

redress                    – remedy, set right

vanity                      – pride

courtesy                  – politeness

brooding over         – spend time thinking anxiously or sadly about something

equilibrium             – balance (of the mind, emotions)

bullied                     – threatened

insolent                   – very rude

henpecked               – a husband who always does what his wife tells him to do

black eye                 – dark coloured skin around somebody’s eyes

empathy                  – ability to understand & share feelings of others.

endorse                   – official agreement to the decision

martyrdom             – the death or suffering of a martyr

morose                    – unhappy, very sad and ill tempered

Decalogue               – the Ten Commandments

knave                      – a dishonest person

squared                   – settled

countenance            – a person’s face or expression

treading                  – pressing down something with foot

inexhaustible          – unlimited

solicitous                 – caring, giving helpful care

irradiated               – spread, produced

uncouth                   – impolite, unrefined

benediction             – a blessing

conciliatory             – trying to win friendly feelings

panegyric                – a speech or piece of writing praising someone highly

moral affront          – insult, disrespect

boor                        – a rude insensitive person

give & take             – exchange of ideas, statements etc

lower than the angels – less than perfect

knock someone down – to strike & cause someone to fall to the ground.

  • The courteous, sensitive bus conductor & his impact on the society-

The conductor would run upstairs in the rainy season to give someone the advice that there was place inside. He said sorry and was apologetic when the writer’s toe was trampled beneath his heavy boots.  He was as considerate as a son while dealing with old people. Dealing with children, he was as solicitous as a father. He indulged in some merry making while dealing with young people. Once he set down a blind man safely on the pavement and asked the driver to wait, till he helped him to cross the road.

Good temper is a quality that makes the surrounding pleasant. It is infectious. If we are good mannered, kind to others we will receive the same in return. The good-natured conductor was very modest. He was kind, sensitive, pleasant to his passengers & enlightened his own life.  

  • The Reasons for the passenger’s ill-mannered & rude behaviour-

It was a chain-reaction-

The house maid ‘answered back’ to the cook.

So, the cook was rude to the passenger’s employer’s wife.

The wife controlled, dominated the employer at breakfast.

The irritated employer did not wish ‘good morning’ to his employee- the passenger.

The passenger behaved rudely and impolitely with the lift-man.

  • The Reasons for the lift-man’s uncivilized behaviour-

i] The lift-man’s self-respect was hurt

ii] The passenger was rude.

iii] The passenger behaved in an uncivilized manner

iv] He declined to follow the lift-man’s demand of courtesy.

  • The Theme of the essay – On saying “Please”

The essay teaches the importance of civility, morality, courtesy, politeness, self-respect etc. We should be polite with the impolite, keep our peace of mind without lowering our self to the level of the perceived offender.

Good manners are also as infectious as bad manners. Just like the sunny weather that brightens up people’s spirits, good behaviour also brightens up the day. If we are civil, humorous towards others, we will get the same response from others.

A.G. Gardiner explores the theme of courtesy and the benefits of being courteous to others.

  • Difference between legal offence & moral offence

A legal offence is a punishable offence by law.  It is considered as a crime by the judiciary. Example – murder or robbery

A moral offence means action which is morally wrong. It differs from person to person. One person may find something morally offensive, other may not. This is not punishable by law. Example – being impolite, badmouthing, to box etc.

  • Prefix & Suffix

Prefix is a set of letters, which is usually used in front of a word. However, sometimes it changes the entire meaning of the word.

For example – discourage, impossible

Suffix is a set of letters that comes at the end of a word.

For example – establishment, connection

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