Tales From the City- Sorry- Oh the things we say.

Photograph for Tales from the City, susan sheldon nolen

Why do the Brits say sorry all the time? Are we really a nation so terribly polite?

We say sorry when we bump into someone.  That’s just being polite.  We really don’t want to crash about into other people. So an apology is in order

We say “Sorry?” when we didn’t hear what you said. But we really mean… your accent got us confused. The dog was barking. Can you repeat what you said?  We don’t need to say all of that after the sorry as it’s commonly understood– we just didn’t hear what was being said and wearing a hearing aid is out of the question!

Then there is the Sorry? with the slightly raised eyebrow.

We mean to say, you are not understood, your logic is flawed, you’re not making any sense. Can you repeat what you are saying so I can make sure that I am hearing what you think you are trying to say. But instead we say,  Sorry?  It’s  just verbal texting in this case.

Strangely, and I’ve done this many times, we say sorry when someone else bumps into us. Are we sorry they bumped into us?  Yes, it hurts, not to mention horribly annoying.  Are we apologising for being in their way? I hope not. Still, we go ahead and mumble, sorry as if it were some how our fault.

Is that a passive aggressive response to their not saying sorry to us first? Or are we trying to teach them some manners by shouting Sorry to their backs as they carry on not caring about the bruises and spilt coffee they leave behind. I wonder. I have said sorry rather angrily to someone who shoved ahead without a care to those around them. Miserable so and so

We say sorry a lot on the Underground, especially during peak travel times. You just can’t wait for people to politely let you off. Your stop will be long gone. So we say sorry and push our way through the crowd. We don’t like doing that, but it’s just something that has to be done. So there’s sorry for that one. It’s an apology ahead of time.  I am guilty of  this one…but when your stop is coming and you have to wade through thirty people deep, all crammed near the exit, and you’re stuck in the middle of the carriage, there is no choice but to push ahead and say, sorry each time you push past.

( Mind you when I had a tube tumble, people jumped over other people to help me! I was the one saying sorry and really meaning it! )

According to a survey of 1,100 people conducted by Esure car insurance company, the average Brit will say sorry 1.9 million times in his or her lifetime.

I really find those numbers ridiculous. Who has all that time to say, Sorry? So terribly sorry, but we are not that polite!

Saying just the word sorry…and not the rest of the bit of the sentence that should follow, has just become shorthand, and does not actually mean you are sorry about something. But sometimes it actually does.



About susan sheldon nolen

It’s rare to catch me without coffee, a form of camera, or my beloved wire fox terriers. I love the history, the art, and it’s a massive part of my life, as I either paint, write, or get interrupted by my dogs, reminding me of the real world. I hope you enjoy your time here. It’s such a privilege to have readers.
This entry was posted in England, Tales From The City, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Tales From the City- Sorry- Oh the things we say.

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    Well, I’d fit in there well, because I once walked into a pole, and before I realized it was indeed a pole and not a person, I said, “Oh, sorry!” Here’s a tip: if you want to look street smart and cool, don’t apologize to a pole…

  2. Carrie, Love it! Hope you weren’t hurt! Lamp posts and poles have a way of moving on you!

  3. paralaxvu says:

    I too say “sorry” all the time. Must be my English ancestry;-) However, one exception is when someone bumps into me. I say, “Excuse YOU!” Sorry, that’s so not nice!

  4. Oh Para, I do wish I could learn! I do say sorry when bumped into! Old habits die hard! 🙂

  5. Morgan says:

    I am not British (sorry, {to say}) but I do believe I say Sorry just as frequently as my cousins across the pond, regardless of the fact that I am a (sorry) American …sorry, I had to.
    In all seriousness though…love this 🙂

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s