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I have noticed that the word "Kindly" is used a lot by some Indians speaking English as a second language. Does anyone know the origin of this?

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Is English a second language for Native Americans, Indians? If so, kindly might be a substitute for "please" - as in kindly put your tokens in the slot. –  user5531 Feb 28 '11 at 17:43
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Are you asking for the etymology of the word kindly? Its meaning? Or something else? –  ShreevatsaR Feb 28 '11 at 17:50
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@ShreevatsaR: The origin of why Indians tend to use the word more frequently than native speakers. –  Kyle Brandt Feb 28 '11 at 18:03

7 Answers 7

up vote 26 down vote accepted

The meaning of kindly is hopefully clear: "kindly help me" means "please be kind and help me" (or "please help me out of kindness"), etc. It's a word used for polite requests; a bare "help me" is impolite relative to "kindly help me".

If you're asking why kindly is more common in Indian English than elsewhere, it's just one of the hundreds of things that have remained in Indian English long after they have gone out of fashion elsewhere.

Searching Google Books for "kindly do this" and looking through the first ten pages, most results, besides a few from India, seem to be from British and some American books, pre-1920. Examples:

"If our friends will kindly do this for us, we shall feel indebted to them." [The Penny Protestant operative, 1842]
"Would you kindly do this?" [Letter from Florence Nightingale, ≈1886]
"If you will kindly do this, I will be very thankful" [Southern and Southwestern Railway Club, Atlanta, 1914]
"If you will kindly do this I will pay you for the two together" [Anthony Trollope, 1864]
"Would you kindly do this library another favor and again place it under obligation?" [Washington State Traveling Library, 1913]

and so on and on (there are hundreds of results), and most interestingly, one 1886 book showing it must have been standard in England:

The first thing that strikes you on landing in America is the want of deference and courtesy among all classes. Not only from the inferior to the superior, but vice versa also. The maxim noblesse oblige has no sway there. In England, speaking to an equal or a social inferior, "Kindly do this," or "Please give me that," is general. In America the "kindly" and "please" are carefully omitted…

[From context, he doesn't mean it's used only with inferiors, but even with inferiors.]

Anyway, given that kindly was standard, this word for politeness entered India when English did—during colonial rule—and it has stayed on. Why something has continued to exist is not a question that can be answered (inertia?); perhaps the right question is why it went out fashion in the UK and US. (And I'd be interested to learn.) My guess is that either the phrase became clichéd, or such politeness came to be deemed excessive. In the US it seems to have taken on a slightly sarcastic meaning: Wiktionary says

kindly
2. (US) Please; used to make a polite request.
Kindly refrain from walking on the grass.
Kindly move your car out of the front yard.

Usage notes
(please): Kindly is used in a slightly more peremptory way than please. It is generally used to introduce a request with which the person addressed is expected to comply, and takes the edge off what would otherwise be a command.

Well, in Indian English it happens to have retained its original meaning, is not peremptory, and is a request rather than an expectation. (And in general it seems safe to assume that Indian English expressions are not sarcastic, and to take them at face value.)

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TL;DR: It's to be polite, and is a holdover from an earlier era. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 28 '11 at 18:40
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+1 Some answers (like mine) answer; others tell a story. I remember the "leave notes" my parents wrote when I had to take a day off from school. "Dear Sir/Madam, Kindly grant my ward Neha one day of absence from her schoolwork since she is suffering from the flu. Thanking you, Yours faithfully, ______" I know people who still attach files to e-mails "for your ready perusal." I even knew someone who used to regularly say, "Alas!" Alas! The colourful archaic is slowly dying its unlamented death in Indian English –  Tragicomic Mar 3 '11 at 13:34
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@Tragicomic: Apparently (reading R K Narayan, for instance), we were born a few generations too late for casual letters ending with "Your obedient servant, ____". At least we weren't too late to catch "Kindly do the needful and oblige". –  ShreevatsaR Mar 3 '11 at 13:38
    
:-) or "to revert on the same". Ah.. this could go on for a while. –  Tragicomic Mar 3 '11 at 14:14
    
@Tragicomic: Good point. :-) But actually, "revert" is ugly businessese of recent coinage, not archaic. "The same" has pedigree, though. :p –  ShreevatsaR Mar 3 '11 at 14:26

It is hardly ever possible to find strong reasons for why a language is used in a particular way. Why do British speakers use "Autumn" much more than Americans?

I (UK speaker) find Indian English very full of words and phrases which sound polite, and sometimes old-fashioned, and it may be that this reflects some cultural habits in India. I suspect that Americans may have the same reaction to British usage.

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Agree with colin , It reflects the politeness and Indian Culture in some ways. –  Akshay Thakur Feb 28 '11 at 18:18

In an Indian language like Hindi, we say Kripaya. Translated to English it literally means kindly.

Similarly, other Indian languages also have the same pattern. For instance, Kannada Dayavittu, which also translates to kindly. Hence, we Indians mistake kindly to mean please.

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I understand this comparing to my first language (Portuguese). There're some words in my language that translated to English there are two words. I used the Google translator to find if the words "kindly" and "please" are the same in Hindi, and guess what, the answer is yes!

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'Kindly' is used towards elderly as a mark of respect or to the person of respectable stature.

'Please' is a polite way of expressing the same with anyone.

In societies such as India, social hierarchies often determine the way a person is addressed.

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This is an interesting answer; kindly complete it by editing to add citations. –  MετάEd Dec 12 '12 at 6:55
    
+1 Agree with @MετάEd –  Kris Dec 12 '12 at 9:36

My Asian experience is mainly with Malaysia (formerly Malaya). English is very widely spoken especially among the immigrant Chinese and Indian population.

Lots or forms which are archaic in Britain are used, often in the most endearing way. For example the expression 'take your sweet time'. In Britain it is nowadays only ever used in sarcasm, e.g to someone who is holding up the rest of the group by taking too much time over things 'OK, take your sweet time!'. But in Malaysia if they want to emphasise that there is absolutely no hurry they will say 'alright, no hurry, take your sweet time.'

Please also bear in mind that out East, courtesy and good manners, especially when dealing with Europeans are considered paramount by many people.

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The word 'Kindly'is used, especially for official writings such as email & leave request form to express a request and to sound polite. It is a step ahead of 'Please'.

It is usually a substitute for "could you please" of American English.

It is used instead of 'please' to avoid the imperative tone. E.g.: "Please fix this!" sometimes is imperative (order), and not a request. But, "kindly" always means request.

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