The main, vain thing I want to say about the video is this: all the lighting on me is from below. You know, like you did with a (BrE) torch/(AmE) flashlight to yourself in order to tell scary stories at (AmE) slumber parties/(BrE) pyjama parties (also AmE pajama party--there is another blog post in this. I will do it next). I don't think I usually look this spooky. Please God, don't let me usually look this spooky.
(But if you want to see me looking spooky, I recommend watching this on YouTube, as the embedded version here cuts off the right side of the video.)
There's a lot more to say about thanking in particular, but what I mention at the beginning of the video, then never talk about at all, is please. There is a lot to say about please. There is a lot to research about please. I'm limiting myself here to talking about saying please when ordering in a restaurant--just because it's the place I notice it (and its absence) the most.
Now, when I first came to this country--and for a while after--I would hear British people claiming that Americans don't say please, and I would bristle. Of course we do! We are trained to add the magic word when we request things. We are nice people! I'm a nice person! And anyone who doesn't think so can have a sock in the eye.
But then I lived here a while and my family and friends started to come over and visit. They'd order food in restaurants and I'd hear how abrupt they sounded, leaving off the please. Then I noticed myself and my English friends at our weekly
(My bossy, corrective behavio(u)r was no doubt facilitated by being the parent of a preschooler--and the fact that I'm the big sister. As a parent, I try not to add the absent pleases, but to ask: Could you say that again in a nice way?)
But look, even on Sesame Street, where children are taught lessons about politeness, people order food without saying please. Mr Johnson here says I'd like a bowl of hot alphabet soup (with a bit of politeness marking in the I'd like). He could have instead said I'll have the alphabet soup.
Of course, it's not true that every British person always says please when they order food, but I definitely hear more pleases here. (On my visit to the US in July, I continued to add pleases after my brothers' restaurant orders, mostly in whispers to myself, just because it was driving me crazy.)
So, how can it be that Americans think of themselves as polite when they fail to extend this common courtesy word?
Part of the story is touched upon in my TEDx talk. American interactions are generally aimed at creating/maintaining a sense of equality among the participants. My reading of what we're doing when we don't say please is that we don't really want to point out that we are making requests in these situations--to do so would be to acknowledge that the customer is in a more 'powerful' or 'statusful' position than the waiter. So instead of thinking of it as telling waiters what to do (here I'm quoting myself from Emphasis Writing's e-bulletin):
Americans regard ordering as providing the waiter with the information he needs to do his job.On the other hand,
The British say please when ordering food in restaurants because they view the action as a personal request to the waiter.Please unambiguously marks an utterance as a request (it is an IFID: Illocutionary Force Indicating Device). Other means of softening requests involve making the request less obviously a request. Could you bring me a salad? is literally a question about someone's ability; I'll have the salad is a statement of my intentions; I'd like the salad is a description of my mental state. They give the requestee a plausible way around dealing with the request (e.g. Could you...? Not in these heels; I'd like..., Ooh, so would I. ). Not that they would refuse. But hiding a request in another type of speech act is a way of being polite, and that hiding is kind of cancel(l)ed out if an IFID like please is added to say "Look at me! I'm ASKING YOU TO DO SOMETHING FOR ME!"
Please thus ends up not feeling right in some American contexts. Ben Trawick-Smith discussed this at his Dialect Blog:
while ‘thank you‘ is still important to civilized discourse, I find that ‘please‘ has almost the opposite effect in American English. It can make a question sound urgent, blunt, and even downright rude.
I'm sure people working in service industries in touristy places will have tales of cross-cultural request behaviour. Please let us know about them!
P.S. I've remembered that I've written about something related, so (please) see also: making suggestions.
P.P.S. (12 September) Various pictures of signs like this are making their way round Facebook. Maybe this is what's needed in the UK, so that tourists learn the lingo without some of the rude interventions described in the comments section!