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OK UK?: Sorry About That...
This Is One Sorry Hub...
There is nothing so quintessentially English as apologizing. We do it with such abandon, that no person, place, or thing, is safe from a perfunctory apology. My dear departed Father spent his entire life apologizing, ad nauseam, to inanimate objects that crossed his path.
There is a genuine sense of (polite) competition between English people who inadvertently bump into each other, as to who can apologize first.
Speed of apology is incredibly important. To be considered well bred, apologies should trip off the tongue instantly. To appear to think about it decreases the value of the apology, and questions not only your family line, but your personal sincerity.
And, sincerity is, in and of itself, a critical component. Saying sorry and not meaning it, is punishable by law. (By being sent straight to bed without any supper.) Now, there is a difference between an insincere sorry, and a sarcastic sorry, but, unless you are English, you would not understand, sorry.
As individuals we are, indeed, a sorry lot. But it is as a collective that we are most sorry. We are terribly sorry for stomping over all those foreign lands and trying to take over the world. Not sure what got into us really. I mean, we believe God was on our side and all that, but it transpires, through careful research, that God’s son was in fact, not born in England. Some Jewish gal had him, in Israel of all places, and it would appear that no Englishman was involved at all, sorry.
Oh, and we are very, very, sorry for taking all your stuff, but we had this British Museum that was a bit empty, and all these Merchant banks who needed your money. We’ll give it back if you promise to look after it, and not get mad at us. We feel bad enough all ready.
We are sorry for talking about the war all the time. We are, however, not sorry for beating the Germans. Twice. That Hitler chap was not very nice. Charging into Poland without as much as a by your leave, and never, not once, ever, saying sorry to that nice Mr. Chamberlain. The poor man flew over to Channel to see Adolf, even though he was feeling a little under the weather, and was promised that there would be peace in our time, even had a signed piece of paper. What a stinker. Not sorry he’s gone. And Germany, trying to say you are sorry now to all the children of Israel, nice idea, but it is a day late and a shekel short.
Other countries have jumped on the sorry bandwagon. Who can forget America’s sorry entry into the world of apologizing, the tearful televangelists and the politicians with their pants around their ankles? Not sure about the waterworks though. Genuine sincerity is best expressed with a stiff upper lip and poignant, but obscure, words. And, as to having your wife standing next to you, holding your hand, as you apologize for having confused sex with some man, what kind of monster apology do you now owe her?
I need to take issue here with the growth of the fake apology. Saying you are sorry that someone took your words or actions as an insult, or in the wrong way, is not saying sorry. Well, it kind of is, but it is more of an, “I’m sorry that I got caught,” don’t you think? I’m pretty sure Mel is sorry he’s been outed as a bigot or that Charlie is a sorry abuser of women. (I always wondered about the “Two and a half Men” title. Not sure Mr. Sheen deserves even the half status.)
Entire nations are having a go at being sorry. Australia is terribly sorry about stealing aboriginal children, South Africa is sorry about that apartheid thing, Austria is sorry about starting the whole Nazi thing, and Switzerland is dreadfully sorry about hording all that money and art and stuff from the war. Even the Catholic Church is sorry that it fostered worldwide child abuse, though I suspect that they are rather more sorry they got caught. Let’s pray for them. (That’s like a very big sorry with God on your side.)
There is so much to be sorry for, I wonder if the missing matter in the universe is actually an apology particle? When they fire up the giant donut at CERN again, (apologies for the breakdowns and delays), will they find tiny sorry waves?
Realistically though, England could not function without almost constant apologies. Our transportation system is in a sorry state, and apologies for delays and cancellations are all that prevent serious civil unrest. And, if the Prime Minister weren’t apologizing for something, what would the newspapers have to write about? And, we really do need to apologize for our dreadful weather…
But, back to basics, sorry, if you don't mind? Why do the English feel the need to apologize for everything? I believe it is the sorry nature of our education.
As sad little five year olds we enter our school system to have all vestiges of self-esteem surgically removed from us. Our first names are stripped from the record so that we can be henceforth addressed by the untitled patronymic. Being hailed as “Lincoln!” or “You, boy!” makes you feel insecure, worthless and, of course, sorry. In this manner your betters quickly establish the hierarchical order and you had better believe that you are nothing better than the sniveling little snot they say you are.
No teacher or coach ever called me by my first name, though upon turning eighteen I was addressed as Mr. Lincoln. I would simply look around for my father and apologize.
And, as for this hub, well, I sincerely apologize for even bringing the issue up. I am truly sorry. I’m not even sure why I brought it up, and I humbly, and unashamedly, beg your forgiveness…
Sorry about that…
Dear Hub Reader
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Homo Domesticus; A Life Interrupted By Housework,
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