Ben Eckersley’s 86-year-old grandmother, May Ashworth, is currently internet famous. Not because she rapped a profanity-laced song on Vine or broke through 12 boards at once with her bare hands on YouTube or something else that British grandmothers wouldn’t normally do. Ashworth did something far more rare on the internet: She actually used the words “please” and “thank you” in her Google searches, thinking that there was some human being on the other end rather than some bloodless algorithm.
Eckersley, a 25-year-old man who lives near Manchester, England, felt that this quaint practice was charming enough to merit taking a screenshot of it and then tweeting that to the world. Little did he know the power of politeness that he was unleashing. That world-shattering tweet now has over 44K likes and 31K retweets and has even attracted the attention of Google itself. NPR’s Camila Domonoske investigated this quintessentially British story.
The tweet in question:
Ashworth’s humble request reads as follows: “Please translate these roman numerals mcmxcviii thank you.” So why was Ashworth trying to decipher those roman numerals in the first place? As she told the CBC’s Haydn Watters, she was merely attempting to determine when a book of nursery rhymes was published. The answer, for those who might be curious, is 1998. Google UK itself acknowledged that in the following tweet:
That is what a little politeness earns in this rude, impersonal era of ours. Saying “please” and “thank you” is now so rare that their use now counts as a newsworthy event. Kudos to this British nana for keeping civility alive.