Politeness: The Curse of British Society

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

By Panashe Chisasa

“Please sir I want some more”, Oliver murmured. “Whaaaat!”, the shocked warden responded as if he had misheard. “Please sir I want some more”, Oliver responded hesitantly.“Mooooore!”, came the earth shuttering response that sent Oliver into trembling. Trembling so bad he couldn’t keep the bowl in his hands in balance. And before he even knew it, he was on his heals running for his life as the warden shouted or rather sang, 

“Get him” 

“Snatch him” 

“Hold him” 

“Screw him” 

Sending the whole dining into a state of awe and frenzy. Oliver had done the unthinkable. Despite begging for food with magic word, “PLEASE “, and a soft voice it did not spare him the spanking. 

In British society politeness has been reduced to simple phrases like “please“, “thank you” and the one that bothers me the most, “sorry“. To be polite is to inject these words somewhere in your sentences as if they are punctuation marks. Manner as the bedrock of politeness is almost forgotten, in the face of these three musketeers.

There is no point in throwing these phrases as a way to be polite when, say your body language is on different wavelength. Your voice is raised, and you are shouting. Or please is preceded by the f word or any other curse words that punctuate our everyday language. 

Not that I resent the use of the word sorry. I love the word it carries a message with a lot of weight. It’s the magic word that has saved relationships that were on the verge of collapsing. However, in this society the word’s value and meaning has been reduced almost to nothingness. More like the word thing. What’s that thing you were talking about the other day. To refer something as ‘thing’ is a signal of its lack of importance. If sorry was a person you all will be guilty of abusing him/her. And If I were charging you a penny every time someone unnecessarily used the word sorry, y’all owe me at least a billion pounds.

Take for example when someone is blocking your way and you want to pass through them, you say sorry. Why! What happened to excuse me? It’s a phrase that was made specifically for that situation. You want to grab someone’s attention how about using excuse me. Excuse me, you are blocking the way, can I pass through. Or excuse me… (saywhat you want to say). Yet we resort to just sorry. Why are you apologising? They are blocking your way and the first thing you say SORRY! How is that even possible? 

In the literal sense you are saying, I am sorry that you are blocking the way, can I please pass through. Believe me my brother has been trying to make a case for the last four year to justify the use of sorry in such situations and is yet to come up with an argument that holds water. Is that we get offended so easily that we assume other people are offended too, hence the reason we are quick to apologise. 

I am by no means trying to make an overhaul of a people’s language and norms that have been upheld for centuries. I am just sighting the bird’s eye view of what an extra-terrestrial from area 51 would observe if they came to the UK for a holiday. I will pen off on this note and preserve my views of some of the other ‘abused/misused phrases’ for future articles. 

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