Whatever Happened to “Yes, Please”?


This is the 48th in a collection of newspaper ads written by Harry Gray, then CEO of United Technologies, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Here is the text from that ad.

It went the way of “Thank you”, Excuse me”, “Yes, sir”.
Do you know who just about killed all those phrases?

All of us.
We did not use them enough.
We now get, “Huh?”, “What?”, “Gimme more.”
Mannerly responses are learned at home.
Rude, barbaric responses also are learned at home.

William of Wykeham, who w as born in 1324, said,
“Manners maketh man.”
If we’re so smart in the 20th century, how come we’re not as civilized as William was in the 14th century?
To the child who says, “Huh?”,
pass along this page.

I still remember one of the best compliments I ever received was when a neighbor told me, on the day after Halloween, that just about the only kids who said thank you when they got their candy the night before were the Borden boys.

I’m a big fan of manners, holding doors for people, saying “please” and “thank you”. However, I must also admit that I get kind of obnoxious when I hold the door for someone and they do not acknowledge it. I try to let them know in a not so subtle way how I feel, but I doubt if it has any effect.

And I agree with Harry Gray that such manners have been fading away. I remember there was a running joke about two older faculty when I first joined Villanova. It was said that if the two of them ever got to a door at the same time, neither one of them would ever get anywhere, because they would insist hat the other person go first. That was 30 years ago and I haven’t heard anything resembling such a comment in the years since.

I can’t imagine what Gray would think if he were alive today and watching this year’s Presidential campaign. If you want any proof that civility is in short supply, just watch any of the debates, particularly the Republican ones. The amount of hostility between the candidates is unbearable to watch.

It’s ironic that there’s a line in the ad, “Manners maketh man”, since I touched on the idea of manhood in yesterday’s blog. I’m fairly certain that many men would not list manners as one of the attributes that make someone a man.

I know that Harry Gray recommends giving this ad to a child who does not have good manners, but I think it would be even better to get it into the hands of adults, particularly this year’s Presidential candidates.

I know my vote will consider traits such as kindness and good  manners.

Is it any wonder that I’m struggling to find someone to vote for?