What does “sorry” even mean

Another day, another national apology on behalf of someone else;

This month’s Prime Minister of Australia (c) apologised to victims of institutional sexual abuse.

As we’ve seen previously, Sorry is a very easy word to say when there are only positive consequences for the speaker.

These national vicarious apologies on behalf of perpetrators who are long dead or languishing in jail would be amusing if it weren’t for the seriousness of the situations they are describing.

Politicians who make these public statements seem to have missed the fact that “sorry” has two meanings;

The first is an expression of contrition and regret for an action you personally were responsible for undertaking. “I’m so sorry I ran over your cat on my driveway“.

The second is an expression of sympathy. “I’m so sorry you have been diagnosed with cancer, that must be devastating for you“.

These national apologies seem to fall into the second category whilst pretending to be the first.

Where might this all lead, do we think?

If we have a duty to apologise for historical crimes for which we have no responsibility but just have some vague connection to the criminal such as nationality, ethnicity or ancestry, what other crimes should we ask the jury to take into consideration?

Bill’s Opinion

Some time ago, I submitted my DNA to Ancestry.com to understand my ancestral heritage.

The summarised results are shown below;

it’s fairly clear to even the casual observer that, at a minimum, I should apologise for the following historic crimes;

– The Jallianwala Bagh massacre

– The Battle of Stamford Bridge

– The tyranny of the Danelaw

– The Reconquista

– The First World War

– The Second World War

– Child labour in the factories during the Industrial Revolution

– The reign of King John and the subsequent War of Independence

– Brexit

– James Corden

I’m so, so sorry*.

*not sorry

9 Replies to “What does “sorry” even mean”

  1. Your Viking ancestors (and mine) went a-raping and a-pillaging a long, long way from home, not only throughout the Mediterranean but up the Don and Vistula as well. Stalin was probably one of our boys. We are responsible for untold shit.

        1. I was tempted to write a blog post about her but so many have got there before me as it’s such a “happy hunting ground”.

          I’m not sure whether Fauxcohonas or Liarwatha is the better moniker.


          1. When I was working in Tennant Creek, NT, one of my colleagues was a half-Russian half-PNG native (known variously as “Trotsky” and “Smersh”) who when he was (not infrequently) drunk used to claim that one of his ancestors had eaten another of his ancestors. Top that, dear Senator from Massachusetts.

    1. By the way, the BBC In Our Time podcast has a good episode on the Vikings of the Volga in their archives.

      The British taxpayer paid for it to be created, we may as well consume it for free.

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