During the fifteen years prior to the first publication of this book, existing models of linguistic politeness generated a huge amount of empirical research. Using a wide range of data from real-life speech situations, this introduction to politeness breaks away from the limitations of those models and argues that the proper object of study in politeness theory must be commonsense notions of what politeness and impoliteness are. From this, Watts argues, a more appropriate model, one based on Bourdieu's concept of social practice, is developed. The book aims to show that the terms 'polite' and 'impolite' can only be properly examined as they are contested discursively. In doing so, 'polite' and 'impolite' utterances inevitably involve their users in a struggle for power. A radically new account of linguistic politeness, the book will appeal to students and researchers in a wide range of disciplines, in linguistics and the social sciences.