I have just received an invitation to an event. Instead of using R.S.V.P., there is a request that I "kindly respond". Doesn't that presuppose my demeanor when I reply as opposed to their kindly asking me to respond?

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    presuppose your demeanor? Your facial expression? – Lambie Sep 6 '16 at 17:04
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    Relevant XKCD – BruceWayne Sep 6 '16 at 20:21
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    @BruceWayne The pedantic response to that pedantism, of course, is that p -> q does not imply 'p -> 'q. – JAB Sep 6 '16 at 21:25
  • Argh! I hate this idiom. Why can't people say please when they mean please? – Dawood says reinstate Monica Sep 7 '16 at 1:09
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    @DavidWallace I've always felt that "kindly" carries more expectation to it: the speaker expects the listener to carry through, whereas "please" sounds a bit more optional. – Zenexer Sep 7 '16 at 5:40

Doesn't that presuppose my demeanor when I reply as opposed to their kindly asking me to respond?

No, it does not. Respond kindly would bear that interpretation, but kindly VERBIMP is an idiom, not construed by ordinary parsing: a fixed construction with the sense Be so kind as to VERB or Do me the kindness of VERBing. It implies that the act of responding is a kindness, a favour which you bestow upon your correspondent.

Note, by the way, that they are not "kindly asking [you] to respond", either: the kindness is on your part, not theirs.

  • Kindly respond - be so good as to respond. Meaning, informally: Please respond. – Lambie Sep 6 '16 at 17:05
  • I know the exact diction would make all the difference, but suppose all you knew was that two different chairmen walked into two different boardroom meetings; one said Kindly be seated (or sit down) as he entered, and the other said Please be seated. With nothing else to go on, wouldn't you agree that the first one is more likely to be in a bad mood, for example? – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 6 '16 at 17:55
  • @FumbleFingers To tell you the truth, I don't think I've ever had anyone ask (or instruct) me to kindly do anything, so, yes, the Chair is probably in a bad mood because he's probably about eighty years old. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 6 '16 at 18:24
  • You mean you've never been told (or told someone else) to Kindly be quiet! ??? Or for a more extreme juxtaposition of "Victorian formal" and "modern colloquial", how about Kindly belt up! Perhaps it's more a BrE thing. I wouldn't expect many teenagers to use it today, but it doesn't seem that antiquated to me. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 6 '16 at 18:31
  • @FumbleFingers I associate kindly VERB with old-fashioned business English, not colloquial discourse. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 6 '16 at 20:06

The unqualified imperative [You] Kindly respond is unlikely to be found anywhere outside Indian English (see this answer to an earlier related ELL question).

When it's not part of a longer circumlocutory imperative, native speakers would only normally use kindly in "peremptory" exclamations such as [Would you] Kindly be quiet!, Kindly leave me alone! (where it's much the same as please except it usually implies contempt on the part of the speaker).

Partly because kindly is a declining usage anyway, and partly because IE tends to use it in contexts that seem inappropriate to mainstream Anglophones, my advice would be to ignore it altogether and stick with please unless you actually want the nuance of rudeness that others might perceive.

  • From my personal experience, this expression seems to be a common occurrence in continental Europe as well. It took me some time to get used to after having lived in the States... – ksiimson Sep 7 '16 at 6:57
  • @siimsoni: There aren't that many Indians living in continental Europe, so perhaps it's a more general feature among non-native speakers. On the other hand, I think the vast majority of Brits living in Europe are people who've retired to Spain or France, so maybe your experience reflects the fact that they're older. I don't really know how to understand "How English is spoken in continental Europe", since for the most part it isn't. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 7 '16 at 12:11
  • As far usage of English in continental Europe is concerned, it would be fair to say English is unofficial lingua franca of Europe. Less so in larger countries and among the elderly, more in smaller countries and the younger generations. For example see English is the lingua franca of Europeans as two thirds speak the language which has squeezed out all its rivals – ksiimson Sep 7 '16 at 13:24

When the issuer of an invitation asks you to "Kindly respond" She is not presuposing your demeanor, but rather asking that you favor her with a response, which she will take as gesture of your kindness.

It is actually a less formal way to ask for your reply. The more formal wording for a reply card is "The favour* of a response is requested by such and such a date." (*favor)

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