sorry not sorry (a sort of joke post)
London How-To’s: Sorry
Ok, so last week on social media, we focused our London How-To’s and Word of the week on ‘Sorry’. Sorry is perhaps one of the most English of English sentiment. And if you want to understand London, you have to understand sorry.
There is a great story in the play ‘The Claim’ (ON AT SHOREDITCH TOWN HALL THIS WEEK! IT’S GREAT, GO SEE IT!) about seeing someone in London walk into a lamppost only to apologize to it after. Which I swear to God, actually happened. I know it happened because the writer of the play is my partner and he witnessed it and found it so hilarious he put it in his show. Of course, he’s English and is himself constantly apologizing for all sorts of weird things. For example, he supports the football team Arsenal, and after a game, apologized to the fans of the other team. I’m not sure why. Because the other team won.
Look, it’s weird. But its only weird if you aren’t from here. When I first moved to the UK, I found it really confusing. I was constantly on edge – which is the opposite effect to how you expect to feel if someone apologizes. But it’s important to note that sorry isn’t just used as an apology. Sorry is often a substitute for another word or phrase, like excuse me or please. It is often about putting the other person at ease – its unthreatening. But it can also be used to interrupt someone or in an aggressive/passive aggressive manner – think horrible boss interrupting an intern or a creepy guy at a bar. ‘Sorry’ is just a word that people in London (and England in general) use to acknowledge that it is awkward to have any sort of contact with other people. People here are deeply uncomfortable making eye contact, let alone speak to each other. Sorry mitigates that discomfort. If someone is apologizing profusely, it’s usually not because they are genuinely sorry about something. It’s just because they are English.
While you’re here, give ‘sorry’ a go! Try it before you compliment someone! English people hate a true compliment, so sorry tempers it a little. Or try it before you order a drink – it makes it seem like its your fault for interrupting the bartending! Next time you let someone out of a door you are about to walk through, say sorry first! Because a favor for a stranger is never really a favor unless you acknowledge the discomfort of the fact you had to interact with them at all!