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Alstublieft: if it you pleases

Approximate cognates

• German — Bitte

• French — s'il vous plait

• Polish — prosze bardzo

• Danish — værsågod (when giving something,) and velbekomme (a reply to "thank you.")

• Romanian — Poftim

"Alstublieft," a good Dutch word, is more of a great linguistic device than a mere word — especially useful during a polite, unfamiliar transaction.

Alstublieft can translate as "please" but is also a kind of "if it pleases you," spoken while offering something to somebody. It is extraordinarily polite and respectful.

We don't have in English a means of exchanging money at the checkout stand, for example, with anything resembling that kind of style and grace. We've no eloquent verbal expression for giving somebody a cup of coffee.

"Alstublieft" politely focuses attention on the transaction. Without it, standing there holding out money can be awkward, when all you have is "here you go."

"Alstublieft," etymologically, comes from "if it may please you," in which sentence the listener is addressed formally.

While one may celebrate or decry the English lack of polite-vs.-formal constructions, it's hard not to regret the lack of an "alstublieft."

The English equivalent, which is either "here you go" or "here you are," is purely idiomatic — in other words, the phrases only make sense because they're accustomed, not because they have any literal meaning. And they're awkward. There is no way to use either of these phrases with any elegance.

Alstublieft is immaculate. It's polite, complete, and always respectful. It's elegant.


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