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Why do we use the initials R.S.V.P.?

­You could say that the French "invented" etiquette, although that would be a simplification because there have always been rules of courtesy to follow in civilization. In fa­ct, an Italian diplomat, Conte Baldassare Castiglione, wrote the first book about proper behavior among nobility in the 16th century. Many of the practices of Western etiquette, however, came from the French court of King Louis XIV in the late 17th and early 18th c­enturies. At Versailles, his palace, Louis XIV had the rules for court behavior written on what the French referred to as "tic­kets," or "étiquette." The tickets either were signs posted at Versailles or were the invitations issued to court events with the rules of behavior printed on the back; experts give different versions of the origin. And French was the language of refinement and high society through the 19th century in the United States. Judith Martin, the author of etiquette books and a syndicated newspaper columnist known as "Miss Manners," thinks that "R.S.V.P." came about as a polite way of reminding people of something that they should already know: If you receive an invitation, you should reply.

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