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I encountered the word in an X-Men comic once:

One person makes a show of the effectiveness of this weaponry but is unable to use it because of the presence of Magneto. He informs him that they are all guests and must behave as such.

so I know it’s legit, :-) and I’d like to be able to use it with some welcome but irritatingly insensitive recurring guests. The term for my obligations to my guests would also be of interest.

Pardon the superhero references, but the context was where a group of mutants had escaped to Magneto’s headquarters and were bickering about whose fault it was that they were on the run. Magneto walked in and told them to stop fighting, because just as he has the obligation of . . . to them as his guests they have the obligation of . . . to him as the host.

Update: I located the word and @jwpat7 helped identify it.

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Can you give an example of a sentence with the word left out? there's not enough context to really pinpoint it from the short question in the title. –  Mitch Nov 21 '11 at 14:17
    
Pardon the super-hero references, but the context was where a group of mutants had escaped to Magneto's headquarters and were bickering about who's fault it was that they were on the run. Magneto walked in and told them to stop fighting, because just as he has the obligation of .... to them as his guests they have the obligation of .... to him as the host. –  Michael Sandler Nov 21 '11 at 15:32
    
Go ahead and edit your question to add that example. Are the two instances of '...' the same word? –  Mitch Nov 21 '11 at 15:45
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7 Answers 7

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I don't know of a word more specific than courtesy and similar, such as civility and politesse, or politeness or perhaps good manners.

On the host's part, hospitality usually is expected. Also see Wikipedia's article re Greek term xenia, which starts with X.

Edit 1: Regarding committee, suggested in another answer, wiktionary shows (besides the usual "group of persons convened for the accomplishment of some specific purpose" meaning) a second meaning: "(archaic) a guardian; someone in charge of another person deemed to be unable to look after himself or herself". This meaning vaguely applies in the case of the quoted instance, "You are guests in my home. As such I require you to respect rules of committee, as I do the rules of hospitality."

However, there's a good possibility the episode-writer used or meant to use the well-known Latin word comitas ("politeness, courtesy; kindness, generosity") but got stuck with committee by an editing mistake. Hospitality also being of Latin origin, the sentence "I require you to respect rules of comitas, as I do the rules of hospitality" reads reasonably well because of the two parallel words. Alternately, comity, "courtesy", might be used. Per etymonline:

early 15c., "association," from Fr. comité, from L. comitas "courtesy, kindness, affability," from comis "courteous, friendly, kind," of uncertain origin. Meaning "courtesy" in English is from 1540s. Phrase comity of nations attested from 1862: "The obligation recognized by civilized nations to respect each other's laws and usages as far as their separate interests allow."

The sense of "obligation ... to respect each other's laws and usages" fits well into the context of the episode quote, and its still more likely with comity than with comitas that a spell-checker or an editor could have substituted committee.

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You're absolutely right! I'm sure that the text is 'comity' and when hearing it I assumed it was the homonym 'committee'. Genius! –  Michael Sandler Jul 4 '12 at 6:59
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Japanese has a word for this concept: 遠慮 (enryo).

It is usually translated as "tact", "discretion" or "thoughtfulness" in English. But, IMHO, all of those are requirements to both the host and the guest in Western culture.

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Well to start you have a common word (from host to guest):

hospitality

the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

Strictly semantically this is not an obligation, unless cultural ethic makes it so.

In ancient times xenia seem to have governed both aspects:

  • The respect from host to guest. The host must be hospitable to the guest and provide them with food and drink and a bath, if required. It is not polite to ask questions until the guest has stated his/her needs.
  • The respect from guest to host. The guest must be courteous to their host and not be a burden.
  • The parting gift (xenion, ξεινήιον) from host to guest. The parting gift is to show the host's honor at receiving the guest.

EDIT:
There is also oblige, especially in the French phrase Noblesse oblige, which is a wider concept, but could have been used when talking about obligations of the host to the guest or guest to the host.

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Xenia is a very interesting concept! –  Raku Nov 21 '11 at 10:25
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If a one person hosts another, the latter is a guest. Sometimes there is an expectation that the guest will in the future do the same for the host, returning the favor. This could be stated eventually

the guest should reciprocate

by hosting the current host. What the real obligation to reciprocate is up to social convention (common dinner guests eventually feel obligated to return the favor).

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I'm thinking about the context of this particular situation. (I read a lot of X-Men...for years!) This is how I would express it:

out of deference to my host

or

in deference to my host's wishes for a congenial gathering.

An equivalent idea, expressed as a full sentence, would be:

Exercise self-restraint as a token of respect toward our host.

Regarding the matter of reciprocity, from host to guest, that is more difficult. The host should be hospitable to his guests. That's the best I can think of.

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While scouring the internet for a scan of X-Men #1 I came across an adaptation of the comic for radio which contains all the dialogue. Magneto seems to be saying (16m 10s):

You are guests in my home. As such I require you to respect rules of comity, as I do the rules of hospitality.

Thanks to @jwpat7 above for his genius correction of the homonym 'committee'.

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You should accept an answer that gave 'hospitatlity'. As to 'committee', I expect there's quite a bit more context there that is relevant. 'committee' has little to do with hospitality. Most likely Magneto is just saying that he followed certain social rules with respect to making decisions (having a committee that together comes to a decision), and that he is also -hosting- them (not as committee members but as guests at his house) and so the need to reciprocate via the rules of hospitality. –  Mitch Nov 22 '11 at 14:49
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Michael, perhaps you mis-heard comity as committee; see my updated answer re comity. –  jwpat7 Feb 16 '12 at 15:57
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Perhaps you're looking for showing appreciation?

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