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I read an article1 in The Telegraph, where it mentions that the phrase "pleased to meet you" was used inappropriately.

When I was little, my mother collected me from a school friend’s party. As I clutched my goody-bag and balloon, I shook the hand of my friend’s mother and said: “Thank you. Pleased to meet you.”

I remember silently congratulating myself on having said something so grown-up and polite. But, to my confusion, my mother blushed slightly and bundled me into the car. “You don’t say 'pleased to meet you’,” she scolded.

Is it because the person was a child, or in which context is this inappropriate?


1 Jessica Fellowes, "Etiquette: Mind your 'please’ and cues", The Telegraph, 24 Jun 2010

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    As an American English speaker, this rule is baffling. As best I can tell, Jessica Fellowes is a reputable writer, but I don't know what on earth she's talking about. – RaceYouAnytime Apr 30 '17 at 15:41
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    She appears to have said it when taking her leave after a children's party. I would expect to hear someone say it when being introduced to someone they hadn't met before, but I don't know why her mother criticised her without giving an explanation. – Kate Bunting Apr 30 '17 at 15:42
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    @RaceYouAnytime In the linked article, Fellowes is pretty clear she doesn't understand either why she was scolded for it: “You don’t say 'pleased to meet you’,” she scolded. I still don’t know why. (emphasis mine) – marcelm Apr 30 '17 at 23:10
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    If the child was dressed up like Barry the Chopper, "pleased to meet you" might be homophonically misconstrued. – Mateen Ulhaq May 1 '17 at 2:02
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    In the US, "(I'm) Pleased to meet you" would be used on first introduction, while "It has been a pleasure to meet you" would be used on leaving a function where a first introduction had been previously made. The above excerpt is describing the exit scenario. – Hot Licks May 1 '17 at 22:00
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No, it wasn't because it was a child saying it. It's because in (British) English the 'correct' way to greet someone you have never met before is to say 'How do you do', not 'Pleased to meet you'.

The Daily Mirror has a rather tongue-in-cheek article about how to tell whether you're 'Posh', and using the phrase 'Pleased to meet you' is one of the key indicators that you're not. (Actually, I think reading the Daily Mirror means that you're automatically NOT Posh, but that's just my opinion.)

The terms 'U' (upper class) and 'non-U' (not upper class) were used to differentiate the way the upper class spoke from how the middle class spoke when trying to be 'posh'. Wikipedia (not always a reliable source, I know), gives a list of U/non-U words and phrases. 'Pleased to meet you' is part of the 'non-U' vocabulary, and is (presumably) not something that an upper class person would/should say.

The Telegraph article was from 2010, and the author (Jessica Fellowes) was speaking about her childhood. She was born in 1974 (see Wikipedia), and evidently the U/non-U divide was still going on during her childhood. (She is the niece of Lord Fellowes, who wrote Downton Abbey. It's reasonable to assume that her mother would have wanted her daughter to speak in a way that showed she was a well-brought-up young girl.)

This sort of etiquette is old fashioned these days, and is only likely to be of much use if you are mingling with the upper class and attempting to pass yourself off as one of them (and in Britain, unless you've studied the rules very carefully, you're likely to give yourself away in many different ways before you're even introduced to someone). In general polite conversation, it's absolutely fine to say 'Pleased to meet you'.

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    Also, in the context of leaving a party, wouldn't it be awkward to say "how do you do?" Is there a "U phrase" for saying 'goodbye' in that setting? – RaceYouAnytime Apr 30 '17 at 18:30
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    @RaceYouAnytime: I can't speak for everyone, but I can't think of a single person I know who would judge anyone badly for saying 'Pleased to meet you', or 'Nice to meet you'. Anyway, the U/non-U classifications would only apply to other British people. As foreign tourists, you would automatically be exempt from this, and hence not judged! It is, as you say, mostly antiquated now. But the British are traditionally somewhat obsessed with class, so I would imagine there are still some people around who would be aware of U/non-U, and try to speak accordingly. – Kiloran_speaking Apr 30 '17 at 18:50
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    @RaceYouAnytime: Yes, there's no way you'd say 'How do you do?' when leaving a party. A simple 'Thank you for a lovely party. Goodbye' would do perfectly. – Kiloran_speaking Apr 30 '17 at 18:53
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    Thanks, I had no awareness of that. It's an interesting bit of trivia that I can't even find on Wikipedia, though probably because I keep ending up on pages for "U-class submarines." – RaceYouAnytime Apr 30 '17 at 18:55
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    @user3306356: Either very common, or very posh! As the Wikipedia page says 'The debate did not concern itself with the speech of the working classes, who in many instances used the same words as the upper classes. For this reason, the different vocabularies often can appear quite counter-intuitive: the middle classes prefer "fancy" or fashionable words ... in attempts to make themselves sound more refined ..., while the upper classes in many cases stick to the same plain and traditional words that the working classes also use.' – Kiloran_speaking May 1 '17 at 7:21
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The idiomatic expression became inappropriate not because the person who used it was a child, but because of the inappropriate context in which it was used. As per The Telegraph article, the context was: "When I was little, my mother collected me from a school friend’s party. As I clutched my goody-bag and balloon, I shook the hand of my friend’s mother and said: “Thank you. Pleased to meet you” ".

The speaker used it when she was leaving the party, in place of a "goodbye!".

pleased to meet you : (thefreedictionary.com) McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs.

an expression said when introduced to someone. Tom: I'm Tom Thomas. Bill: Pleased to meet you. I'm Bill Franklin. John: Have you met Sally Hill? Bill: I don't believe I've had the pleasure. I'm pleased to meet you, Sally. Sally: My pleasure, Bill.

pleased to meet you phrase (en.oxforddictionaries.com)

Said on being introduced to someone.

‘‘This is my wife.’ ‘Pleased to meet you.’’

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    I don't think it's as simple as that. The clue is in the mother's reaction: "You don't say 'pleased to meet you', she scolded. If it had just been a simple error of timing (ie the child said it at the wrong time), then her mother might have intimated as such. But a blanket 'you don't say it', means that it's just not said at all in polite society. (I do completely agree that it's more usual to say it when meeting rather than when saying goodbye, but I don't think that's the point that's being made here.) It's an article on British etiquette, so McGraw-Hill might not be the best source. – Kiloran_speaking Apr 30 '17 at 17:36
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    @Kiloran_speaking: yes, you may be right. I didn't think of the etiquette and language usage differences among various societal classes. I sourced not only the McGraHill but also the Oxford Dictionary. – mahmud koya May 1 '17 at 7:58
  • @Kiloran, the only thing odd about its use is the timing. We only have a writer's recollection of what actually happened on that day, and she admits she didn't know why her mother scolded her. Besides, as a child she would likely only be mimicking what she heard her parents say. She just didn't get the timing right. – Octopus May 2 '17 at 23:23
  • I read it this way at first. But when you read the whole article, it seems that the etiquette answer is actually the right one. – GreenAsJade May 3 '17 at 11:45
  • The author's recollection of the incident could be incomplete. I don't think it strange that if a parent were to say 'You don't say x! You were leaving the party!', the child might simply hold on to the shocking (for her) 'don't say x'. I know I often recollect only essential bits of past scoldings and, unfortunately, selective memory can select the wrong 'essential bits'. – SC for reinstatement of Monica May 3 '17 at 13:38
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"Pleased to meet you" is used when meeting someone or being introduced. It could have been phrased, "Pleased to have met you." While stilted, it wouldn't be wrong.

That is, assuming the child met the adult on arriving to the party.

Let's face it. In certain regions of the world, the party host could have been heard saying, "Don't let the screen door hit you on the way out!" It's time to broaden our horizons a bit.

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To expand on @eup's answer.

The girl ought to have said: It was a pleasure meeting you

  • 'It was a pleasure meeting you, Herr Gunther,' he said with easy Viennese charm. 'No, the pleasure was all mine,' I replied.

Alternatively, it has been a pleasure meeting you”

  • I am honored to have served as your President over the past year and it has been a pleasure meeting so many of you during my travels from coast to coast.

Or, Thank you for having me

  • Parties are no longer the occasions when you should be on your best behaviour. It's wise to forget the manners your mother drummed into you, like saying, "Thank you for having me."

Although in the days of snail mail, it was more customary for English-speaking children to write thank-you letters.

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''How do you do'' is LONG gone from almost all public society, and people who would know that the right reply is ''How do you do'' also, are even more rare.

''Pleased to meet you'' is OK. As is ''Pleasure to meet you.'' But 'Nice to meet you' is not very classy at all (although better than ''Hey'' I suppose.

;-)

People may often say ''Good to meet you'' especially in the USA, but ''Great to meet you'' seems more forgivable (as it implies enthusiasm and a more casual setting).

I'm British

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    I don’t agree that “How do you do” is long gone—I still hear it with some frequency in more formal contexts (though I sincerely doubt the people who use it are aware of the severe class connotations detailed in Kiloran_speaking’s answer above). I’d say most people also still know that the expected answer is “How do you do”, even those who would not naturally say it first themselves. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 30 '17 at 19:31
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    I think a lot depends on context. In the legal profession, or a in professional/business environment, for example, 'How do you do' is definitely still very much present and heard/used daily. In less formal gatherings you're more likely to hear 'Nice to meet you' (or variants thereof) or even just 'Hello, I'm ...' by way of introduction, – Kiloran_speaking Apr 30 '17 at 20:09
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    "Good to meet you" and "Great to meet you" are not idiomatic in my dialect of American English. "Nice to meet you" or "pleased to meet you" is fine, and "pleasure to meet you" is pretentious. I guess there's a sort of anti-classist thing going on here. – Matt Samuel May 1 '17 at 1:34
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Even though I know that the expected answer is 'How do you do' as well, it almost always turns out that I am mentally incapable of not spontaneously answering the question instead whenever I encounter it in the wild (i.e., I typically reply 'Fine, thanks' while at the very same moment thinking 'Damn, I should have said "How do you do" as well ...') – Hagen von Eitzen May 1 '17 at 11:10
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    I'm also British, and I would, most certainly, use "How do you do" in a formal work environment, when meeting a new client, or a peer from another office, in order to give the meeting at a professional level. I would even use it in a social environment, when first meeting someone, to indicate a certain level of good manners, and so as not to come across as too familiar. I wouldn't use it with my manager, if I had known them for a while, or with good friends. – Greenonline May 2 '17 at 14:34