You won’t believe this adorable story of the Internet!

A story from Britain in today’s Guardian is extremely cute. Ben John, an observant if not nosy lad from Wigan, opened his grandmother’s laptop and spied her request to Google to translate the Roman numeral MCMXCVIII into regular numbers (see below). She had seen the Roman numerals as the date when a t.v. show was made. The 86-year-old gran, May Ashworth, had typed “please” and “thank you” into her request.

Apparently Ms. Ashworth, with the manners of an older generation—as well as its ignorance of social media—thought an actual human answered Google searches, and that by being polite they’d help her faster.

Ben, with the savvy of a 25-year-old social media acolyte, posted this on Twi**er, where it was quickly retweeted thousands of times:

I don’t know how Google UK saw this, but it responded!

And then Big Google responded:

Here’s Ben and his grandma:

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 7.55.55 AM


  1. Posted June 16, 2016 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    OK, that’s a sweet story.

  2. Posted June 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    One thing I heard long ago and have tried ever since to incorporate in my relations with all people: “No one hears their own name, or ‘thank you’ often enough.”

    Words to live by.

    • ploubere
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      That’s good to remember. I forget it too often.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, jblilie!

    • Wunold
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:50 am | Permalink

      Actually, I don’t like being addressed by my name in conversations. Especially as people who do that tend to overdo it. (“Hey Bill, how are you, Bill? And how’s the wife, Bill?”)

      I know that it’s being said to be beneficial psychologically, but it has the exact opposite effect on me. It’s not that I don’t like my name, I just find it in most situations redundant and prone to sound simulated when used wittingly.

      So keep in mind that your vis-à-vis might not like it either. Use it sparingly.

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 5:06 am | Permalink

        Concur. When otherwise strangers start overusing “Diane” when talking to me, I usually just assume it’s due to instructions from corporate on how to schmooze customers, or something similar. Maybe someone who’s read too much Norman Vincent Peale.

        • Vaal
          Posted June 17, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink

          I agree too.

          We even have bank machines that refer to you by name “Hello John.” “would you like to do another transaction John?” “Thank you John, have a good day.”

          There’s no need for it to use our name, doesn’t fool anyone into being more comfortable using the machine and, though it doesn’t worry me in particular, I can imagine not everyone wants their name instantly visible to the people waiting behind them in the bank machine line.

          • Wunold
            Posted June 18, 2016 at 1:30 am | Permalink

            A good point I would caution to keep in mind: Saying people’s names in public reveals personal information to all listeners without their prior consent. This applies even more if you make it a habit of courtesy.

            I consider this briefly every time I call out to someone in public and avoid shouting their names across the place, using other words they should recognize or counting on them to recognize my voice. If this fails, I can still fall back to their names.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted June 18, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

              My friend’s husband is a little deaf so she often found herself calling his name out in public, “Saul! Saaaaaaaul!” He got upset one day when she did this because he is Jewish, with a Jewish name in a Muslim neighbourhood. I always find his gentle nature perplexing as he’s a big guy and is very sensitive to things like this. I know I’m a white woman so I don’t have his experiences, but I wouldn’t give a shit if people in the neighbourhood didn’t like me because they can suck it (and I’m a small person with no ability to defend herself).

              Suffice it to say, he got a hearing aid after that incident.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 20, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

          (Late to the party but…)

          Concur too. I’m particularly put off when someone who’s just met me calls me by name, such as ‘facilitators’ or ‘co-ordinators’ or such who have only met me five minutes ago. It usually goes with an unspoken assumption that I’ll be enthusiastic – no, passionate about whatever-stupid-barrow-they’re-pushing-this-week.


      • Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        I mostly use this in the following ways:

        1. A home, I thank my son by name when he is helpful. I thank my wife with an endearment attached.

        2. At work, I say “thanks” whenever possible, face to face.

        These take mere milliseconds.

        3. At work, when I have received help from a colleague, especially extraordinary help, I write them an email, thanks them by name, give specifics on the service, tell them why I appreciated it, and I always cc their boss.

        This takes only a few seconds and it’s amazing how much people appreciate it and how willing they are to work with you if you do it consistently.

        • Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

          One (very religious) colleague told me once, “You are the most grateful person I know!”

          And it’s true. I actually am that grateful for what people do. Being that way puts you into a happy place.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 1:28 am | Permalink

      Included in that is that when most people are being introduced, they hear their own name and not the other person’s.

    • Posted June 17, 2016 at 4:30 am | Permalink

      Words to live by jblile. Thanks!

      Carl Kruse

  3. Pliny the in Between
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Of course the flip side is that Big Brother Google really can do what the Santa of myth could only dream about – IT knows who’s naughty and who’s nice.

  4. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Makes you wonder, though, if maybe Ben’s Nan is onto something. I mean, how do we know that Google doesn’t take politeness into account in its search algorithm? Seems like a golden opportunity for some subtle social engineering.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 5:11 am | Permalink

      Yeah, a golden opportunity to suss out the probably old, obviously internet-non-savvy, potential marks for all kinds of unsavory exploitation.

  5. Kevin
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I know two people who say please and thank you to Siri. Not only does this not surprise me, but I think it keeps people sharp with their politeness.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 1:35 am | Permalink

      So I had to find out. I asked “Siri does it make a difference if I say please or thank you to you?”

      She replied, “Of course”. Now I don’t know what to think about that. Would she lie, just to be polite?

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 5:12 am | Permalink

        This will keep me up all night…

      • darrelle
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 6:36 am | Permalink

        Uh oh. I think the human race is in deep shit.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I once reflexively apologized to my monitor when I hit it. I was on a conference call with another Canadian and an American and the Canadian used it as an opportunity to explain Canadian politeness to the American. 🙂

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 5:14 am | Permalink


      I’ve found myself apologizing to inanimate objects more than once…

  7. macha
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    I say “good morning” to my Raspberry Pi farm sometimes.

  8. Dianne Leonard
    Posted June 20, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Of course, there’s the flip side of this story. Kids who go to fundamentalist schools and are forbidden from using computers are mentally crippled from succeeding in college or jobs. (As a crip myself, I think crippling a person mentally is thousands of times worse than being crippled physically.)

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