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Other questions on this site have established that kindly can be used as a sort of please. This usage was in my mind when someone said "Thank you kindly" to me, but "thank you please" doesn't make sense. However, characterizing one's own thanks as kind also sounds unlikely. The actual usage appears to be the sixth definition by Dictionary.com:

kindly
6. cordially or heartily: We thank you kindly.

However, I still have questions. Is this usage of kindly only used with thank you? How did this usage occur?

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It is an adverb meaning "in a kind manner," the first sense of the word. As such, it is asking someone to be kind and do something. Similar to "Be a dear and fetch me a beer out of the fridge." Also as such it's pretty much general reference. –  Robusto Jan 24 '12 at 1:46
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But thank you kindly is said after the favor is discharged. Why would you ask them to be kind again? I've always heard thank you kindly used as a replacement for thank you. –  Daniel Jan 24 '12 at 1:51
    
Thank you kindly is one of those expressions that I associate with correspondence from people in South and Southeast Asia -- areas where proper British English was taught to them due their colonial history, but the expressions aren't even used by British people any more. –  Paul Richter Jan 24 '12 at 1:57
    
I'm just responding to your conjecture about the meaning. Obviously the word can have different meanings for different situations. Why is it hard to accept that you can thank someone kindly for a favor, but ask someone else kindly to do something? –  Robusto Jan 24 '12 at 1:58
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@Robusto: There's a significant difference there. The person doing the thanking isn't doing it in a generous and indulgent fashion - which is the more normal sense of "kindly", and the one used when you ask someone to "kindly do something" for you. –  FumbleFingers Jan 24 '12 at 2:24

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Where I live (SE USA), kindly still is very much in use, but mainly as a way to exaggerate politeness, sometimes tongue in cheek. The word does not literally mean the same thing in thank you kindly as it does in would you kindly?, but in both cases it carries the connotation of being so polite that it sounds a bit silly, which makes it polite again. I realize that makes no sense whatsoever but I suppose it's a Southern thing and ask that you kindly make allowances.

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I agree. Thank you kindly is definitely a southernism in my mind, and one used more often facetiously than not. –  onomatomaniak Jan 24 '12 at 14:29

"Thank you kindly" is a very warm, humble, and appreciative form of thanks. It may be over-the-top, but if so it's in the same manner as "thanks a million!" As @JeffSahol noted, it is quite common in the southern USA, and I have a particular association with it being said by performers thanking their applauding audiences.

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The 'thanks a million' comparison is good. Of course, 'thank you :-) ' wasn't around then (and isn't easy to put into speech in a darkened room). –  Edwin Ashworth Jun 5 at 16:01

The usage has been around a long time, but it's been tailing off over the past century. Many might consider it dated or even archaic today. As OP has noted, the word kindly in "Thank you kindly" has the sense of "with goodwill and enthusiasm; very much", which has all but disappeared today outside of a few stock phrases.

For example, He kindly embraced him, is an old citation which IMHO has that meaning. And Wilkie Collins in The Woman in White (1861) has "[his lordship] was most kindly anxious to know what had become of her", which I read more as "very much" rather than "generously". In modern parlance the only other surviving usage with this meaning that I can think of is in constructions like "I didn't take kindly to being ignored", where it's in the negative.

But you could (erroneously, IMHO) parse it as "I thank you, kindly sir", so that "kindly" modifies the person being thanked (for having been kind to you). I wouldn't promote this idea too strongly, but as a subtext it might help the usage stick around. Certainly some of the comments against the question suggest this interpretation does at least occur to people, though I don't think it's central to the history of the usage.

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Don't you mean to put the comma after kindly instead of in front of it? –  Robusto Jan 24 '12 at 2:30
    
@Robusto: Definitely not! The whole point of my example is that the normal form is "I thank you kindly, sir". I moved the comma to show how an alternative parsing can make "sir" the "kindly" one. Which you should agree with, since that's what's going on in your example "Would you kindly..." in the question comment. –  FumbleFingers Jan 24 '12 at 2:36
    
Well, all I can say is it sounds very strange to use that in direct address. Calling someone "a kindly man" is one thing; addressing him as "kindly sir" is quite something else again. –  Robusto Jan 24 '12 at 2:42
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It was you who attached "kindly" to the person who will (or did) do the favour in the first place. I said I don't endorse that strongly - I just put it forward as something that might have affected some people's decision to keep the usage alive, and you clearly felt something in that area was relevant. Bear in mind this usage is dated, formal, and part of established "set phrasing". It's rooted in pre-Victorian style, so it would hardly be surprising if my example sounds strange to you today - all these usages obviously sound strange to OP, which is why he's asking why we say them. –  FumbleFingers Jan 24 '12 at 3:03
    
I attached it? You're the one who wrote "I thank you, kindly sir." –  Robusto Jan 24 '12 at 16:57

"If you'll kindly give me a chance to explain" seems to capture the essence of the use you have in mind. It's got a bit of attitude. The particular gem you cite, which sounds ever so Southern, is used in ways both innocuous and not, but more generally the latter, but, when the former, represents an assertion more so than an expression of thanks. In that case it's a way of saying [to the person being thanked] that they're right on the edge of behaving in a way that's objectionable, and, as such, it really is a form of "Please". In its more aggressive form it's rendered "I'll thank you to kindly ..." and then, of course, finished off with whatever's being objected to. And bypassed altogether it's certain to yield something akin to Herman Cain's now famous assertion, "Excuse me!", when plagued by the press of journalists.

[And then, next day]

To properly respond to the author-of-the-question’s comments:

Taking into consideration the context in which I've always heard this, if you'll kindly give me a chance to explain does not capture the essence of thank you kindly. Also, "right on the edge of behaving in a way that's objectionable" does not relate to thank you kindly at all; it's a completely different sentiment. I've always heard thank you kindly as a replacement for thank you after someone does a favor. – Daniel δ

Fully in keeping with the terms of use here, I, just as you, Daniel δ, am merely conveying my experience as it pertains to the topic you introduced. So while there is no assumption on my part that my experience will match that of every other party, nor should there be, I should also expect you capable of approaching these interactions knowing that the experience of others will at times stand at variance with your own. I cannot account for your experience, nor you mine. So what are you saying, really? Are you suggesting that the things I outlined are not things grounded in personal experience? That can’t be very productive.

You stated, Daniel δ, that from your perspective the reported parallel between the word kindly and the word please “doesn’t make sense” within, that is, the particular phrase you introduced. I offered you my experience of how the word kindly is used in, mind you, a transparently good faith attempt to provide you a clear means by which to understand that yes, indeed, it is intended to mean please in something of a qualified sense. The clause I started with, “If you’ll kindly give me a chance to explain,” is virtually indistinguishable from the alternate clause “If you’ll please give me a chance to explain”. (You seem to be saying you don’t see that.) Furthermore, I never said it captured the essence of “thank you kindly”, as is your claim here. But I did say that it “seems to capture the essence of the use you have in mind”, to wit, the parallel between the word kindly and the word please. If you’ll simply consider the following extraction from your own original query, “...that kindly can be used as a sort of please. This usage was in my mind when ...,” there’s no question but that I was speaking directly to what you deemed central to your question.

And finally, by stating from the outset that you couldn't quite grasp the legitimacy of replacing please for kindly in the phrase “thank you kindly”, by any reasonable measure you were stating that your experience of the use of the term has yet to provide you the means by which to bridge that gap. So by asking the question you asked, you offered up of a tacit acknowledgement that others had necessarily/likely/possibly experienced the use of that phrase in a way that does bridge that gap. My experience certainly falls within that category, as reported. You have responded by saying that, well, yours does not. We already knew that? We believed you from the door? WTH?

For my part, I must admit, room does exist which allows for confusion to follow from one particular aspect of my contribution. I’ll go in and clean that up. The combination

“and, when the latter, represents …”

should read

“…but, when the former, represents …”,

because from that point forward my focus is on that of [what I deem] the innocuous use of the “thank you kindly” rather than the more common use. Your attention to that failing would have offered of some value. But literally no part of your comment contributes anything in the way of that which is useful or appropriate.

If I’ve incidentally offended you somewhere along the line, I do not know it and did not intend to do so.

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It doesn't have to be snarky, even though it's sometimes often that way. –  Robusto Jan 24 '12 at 1:51
    
Taking into consideration the context in which I've always heard this, if you'll kindly give me a chance to explain does not capture the essence of thank you kindly. Also, "right on the edge of behaving in a way that's objectionable" does not relate to thank you kindly at all; it's a completely different sentiment. I've always heard thank you kindly as a replacement for thank you after someone does a favor. –  Daniel Jan 24 '12 at 1:53
    
@Robusto — to be fair, which I hope you intend, the relevant construction I provided “is used in ways both innocuous and not” is explicitly synonymous with the construction you provided “It doesn't have to be snarky”, while the very next construction I provided “but more generally the latter” appears at least loosely synonymous (Who can really tell?) with your very next construction “even though it’s often sometimes that way”, ( … as the combination ‘often sometimes’ carries with it no natural force of meaning); how odd to find my experience deemed objectionable by one who shares it. –  Tom Raywood Jan 24 '12 at 13:50
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Just because you can toggle "please" and "kindly" in something like "Will you kindly shut up" doesn't mean they're equivalent in any way! "Please" ultimately derives from the Latin for "approve" - in requests like "May it please you to shut up", it means something akin to "I hope you will approve of shutting up". Whereas "kindly" in these constructions means "I hope you will act beneficently (out of kindness/generosity towards me) and shut up." Also, answer text is not an appropriate place to engage in lengthy "dialogue" with the OP - that's what we have comments for. –  FumbleFingers Jan 25 '12 at 4:43
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Metadiscussion, such as what how one plans to edit one's answer, Q&A with the OP or another contributor, apologies, rationalizations of behavior, etc., are off topic in the answer itself. –  MετάEd Jan 25 '12 at 6:15

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