WHY DO THE ENGLISH APOLOGIZE SO MUCH? Henry Hitchings had an article in the New York Times (December 13) about a claim that the average British person says “Sorry.” eight times a day. Hitchings thinks that it happens many more times than eight, based on a personal “monthlong audit of apologies”. Hitchings doesn’t like the frequent apologies, saying that: “’Sorry’ is a mixture of decayed piety and passive-aggressive guile.”
I think this use of “Sorry” is prevalent in America as well, and that it serves as a useful social lubricant. In an egalitarian society where people are often in crowds, “Sorry” recognizes that there are a lot of bumps where determining fault is not worth the trouble. I say ‘egalitarian’ because the apology is really an acknowledgement that no disrespect is intended. By contrast, in traffic, where an apology (or, as I would view it, an acknowledgement of the other person’s worth) is not feasible, the result can be road rage.