Canadians say “sorry” an awful lot, but they rarely apologize
An excerpt from How to Be a Canadian (Even if You Already Are One) by Ian and Will Ferguson
Canadians don’t have different words that mean “I’m sorry,” but they do have different meanings for the words, as indicated by things like inflection. The use of these two words in combination is very sophisticated and extremely difficult to master, but ultimately worth the sacrifice. Once you learn how to properly say “I’m sorry,” you will no longer be trying to become Canadian, you will have rewired your brain to such a degree that you will actually be Canadian. Now then, as you have no doubt already gathered from the chapter heading, there are twelve variations of “I’m sorry,” but be prepared … they get more challenging as you go along.
1. The Simple Sorry
The most basic use of “I’m sorry.” Can also be shortened to the simpler “Sorry,” or amended to the slightly more loquacious “Sorry about that.” Used primarily after making unwanted physical contact with another person in a public place.
Eye contact: Not required.
Examples: When bumping into someone as you exit a revolving door; when stepping on someone’s foot as you take your seat in a theatre; when backing up into someone in an elevator.
Correct pronunciation: Must be delivered quickly and without inflection. If using either of the longer versions, you must run the words together (i.e., “I’msorry,” or “Sorrybouthat”).
Sample sentence: “Sorry, I didn’t see you.”
Actual meaning: “I’m in a hurry and you’re in my way.”
2. The Essential Sorry
The most common variation of “I’m sorry,” and the one you will most often use. Can also be shortened to the simpler “Sorry,” but formal usage is preferred. Used primarily when someone makes unwanted physical contact with you in a public place.
Eye contact: Optional.
Examples: When someone steps on your foot as you get off an escalator; when someone elbows you on a bus or streetcar; when someone backs into you in a bank lineup.
Correct pronunciation: Must be spoken firmly, with a very slight rising inflection on the first word. If using the shorter version, make sure the “s” in “Sorry” has a slight trace of sibilance.
Sample sentence: “I’m sorry. Isn’t this crowd something?”
Actual meaning: “How could you not see me? Are you blind? Or just a jerk?”
3. The Occupational Sorry
This version of “I’m sorry” is to be deployed exclusively within your working environs. Formal usage only. Used primarily when a co-worker desires your undivided attention.
Eye contact: Fleeting.
Examples: When the phone in your office rings in the middle of an informal meeting; when a co-worker asks you a question five minutes before quitting time; when the same co-worker asks if you’d like to look at pictures from their vacation in Mexico.
Correct pronunciation: Falling inflection, slight emphasis on the “I’m.” (A faint tone of regret is also recommended.)
Sample sentence: “I’m sorry, I really have to take this call.”
Actual meaning: “I would really rather talk to an aluminum siding salesman than spend another moment listening to you.”
4. The Subservient Sorry
This “I’m sorry” is also exclusive to your place of work. Again, only the formal usage is allowed. This time, however, it is used when dealing with a client or customer.
Eye contact: Evasive.
Examples: When a client asks you for contract concessions; when a customer asks you for help finding the right size; when a patron asks for more coffee.
Correct pronunciation: A rising inflection with a slight questioning tone at the end.
Sample sentence: “I’m sorry? Is there something wrong with the veal?”
Actual meaning: “I would like to stab your through the eye with this olive fork.”
5. The Aristocratic Sorry
This “I’m sorry” is used mainly in social situations when you are the customer or client. Formal usage is encouraged and, for greater effect, you can insert the word “very” in between the “I’m” and the “sorry.” Used mainly when you require some sort of service.
Eye contact: Compulsory.
Examples: When you want a simple contract concession from your supplier; when you just need a little bit of help finding the right outfit; when you would like another cup of coffee.
Correct pronunciation: Flat inflection. Equal emphasis on both words. Slight pause between words, or, if you are adding the linguistic flourish of the “very,” a slight pause before it, and a slightly longer pause after it.
Sample sentence: I’m … very … sorry, but this isn’t the entree I ordered.”
Actual meaning: “Don’t you know who I am? I’ve had people killed for less!”
6. The Demonstrative Sorry
This “I’m sorry” works best when used with a partner or loved one. Formal usage is generally appropriate, and this time you can add the word “very” as many times as you want. Used when you’ve either done something you weren’t supposed to do, or not done something you were supposed to do.
Eye contact: Beseechingly.
Examples: When you’ve arrived somewhere too early; when you’ve arrived somewhere too late; when you have forgotten a significant date.
Correct pronunciation: Rising inflection building to near-hysteria. If possible, string the words together into one continuous verbal outpouring of emotion.
Sample sentence: “I’m veryveryveryvery sorry. Really. You have no idea how sorry I am.”
Actual meaning: “Why are you so angry? Was it something I said?” (Males only: He knew he was a dead man, but he must now race against time to find out why.)
“Was it something I should have said?” (Females only: “What is it that I’m supposed to have done this time? I am really getting tired of your moods.”)
7. The Libidinous Sorry
This “I’m sorry” usually follows in direct chronological order from the above. Formal usage only; and don’t try to get fancy with this. Used with partner or loved one in private quarters.
Eye contact: Constant.
Examples: When riding home in a taxi with loved one or partner after a fight at a party; walking home with loved one or partner after a disagreement over movie choice at the video store; getting into bed with partner or loved one after not speaking to each other all day.
Correct pronunciation: Equal emphasis on both words, slight rising inflection on “sorry.”
Sample sentence: “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.”
Actual meaning: “You’re wrong, I’m right, but I’m tired of fighting and I hope this shift in tactics will lead to some foolin’ around.”
8. The Ostentatious Sorry
This “I’m sorry” can be used in a wide range of situations and conversations. For maximum effect, you should employ the shorter “Sorry” version. Used chiefly as a reactive tool in establishing status.
Eye contact: Condescendingly.
Examples: When someone asks if you’re planning to sign up for the bonspiel; when someone tries to tell you about a fascinating television program they watched the night before; when someone uses a word you don’t understand.
Correct pronunciation: Slight rising inflection. Quizzical tonality.
Sample sentence: “… sorry?”
Actual meaning: “I’m pretending that I didn’t hear and/or didn’t understand your last statement, but we both know that what you just said proves how stupid and uncultured you are. You are truly beneath contempt. Now, breathe in the glory that is me. Bow down before me. I am your superior in this and all things that truly matter.”
9. The Mythical Sorry
This “I’m sorry” is used to support a personal recollection or anecdote. any variation or usage could potentially work, although the simplest, most straightforward version will also be the most effective. Can be used when talking to a group of people or an individual friend or acquaintance.
Eye contact: Penetrating.
Examples: When you are describing a recent bout of bad service; when you are talking about a fight you just had with your boss; when you are telling someone about a recent minor traffic accident.
Correct pronunciation: Rising inflection, huge emphasis on the first syllable of “sorry.” You can also snap your fingers dismissively for further dramatic effect.
Sample sentence: “So I looked him in the eye and I said to him, ‘Look, I’m sorry, but this is unacceptable.’ “
Actual meaning: “I didn’t say anything. I’m a fraud. I backed down. I chickened out, and my greatest fear is that you will figure out what a coward I am. Please oh please, just put me out of my misery. Sob.”
10. The Unrepentant Sorry
This extremely sophisticated variation of “I’m sorry” is used to fend off any justified criticism you might encounter. Formal usage works best, although politicians are starting to experiment with the diminutive version with great success.
Eye contact: If necessary, but not necessarily eye contact.
Examples: When you say something stupid, and then you pretend you never said it, but then a reporter had their tape recorder running and now you’re busted, and everyone is asking you to clarify your statements; when you have to go on television and explain why you used taxpayers’ money to cover your legal fees; when you park too close to another car and open your door so hard that you put a dent in the other car and the owner of that car happens to be standing right there and he says, “Do you know that you just put a dent in my car?”
Correct pronunciation: Downward inflection, slight breath between the “I’m” and the “sorry,” can be supported by slight shrug of shoulders.
Sample sentence: “I’m, um, sorry …”
Actual meaning: “I’m not sorry for what I did, I’m just sorry I got caught.”
11. The Sympathetic Sorry
This variation of “I’m sorry” can only be properly performed if you have a good understanding of what the Germans mean by schadenfreude. It is always used with a modifying “so” in the middle. And always at times of great pain and loss. For someone else.
Eye contact: Constantly.
Examples: When a co-worker tells you he’s just been fired; when an old flame arrives at your door at two o’clock in the morning crying her eyes out; when a neighbour tells you he has just discovered he is going to be audited.
Correct pronunciation: Rising inflection on the first word, falling inflection on the second word, a flat inflection on the last word.
Sample sentence: “I’m … so … sorry.”
Actual meaning: “I’m so happy that this is happening to you and not me. I revel in your downfall!”
12. The Authentic Sorry
The least used of all of our dozen variations. What can we say? We didn’t spend a lot of time researching this one. Sorry about that.
Eye contact: Hard to say. Sorry.
Examples: Sorry, but we can’t really come up with any examples…
Correct pronunciation: Who the hell knows? Oh, jeez. Sorry about the profanity.
Sample sentence: Sample sentence. Ooh. That’s a tough one. Can’t think of any. Sorry.
Actual meaning: Some sort of expression of regret? Sorry. Don’t really know.
And there you have it. Your own personal 12-step program to mastering the Canadian art of saying “I’m sorry.” Canadians use that expression the way cab drivers use car horns, for just about any situation that comes along.
Canadians say “sorry” an awful lot. But they rarely apologize.
138 Notes/ Hide
- mists-of-tagmayne reblogged this from cutlerish and added:
- no-saving-grace reblogged this from cutlerish
- kahunamatador reblogged this from cutlerish
- moustache-conversationalist likes this
- celicessideofparadise likes this
- myhandmadejewelry likes this
- charlyngold reblogged this from cutlerish
- lerandomhispanic likes this
- charlyngold likes this
- rebeccagodard likes this
- elordendetodaslascosas likes this
- ryannxp likes this
- turinturambarling reblogged this from cutlerish
- stellawho likes this
- followingskinna likes this
- frankfurto reblogged this from cutlerish
- choklitfroggie reblogged this from thebookworm
- imchochangyall reblogged this from thebookworm
- jcummins151 likes this
- bgabrieleg reblogged this from rammyismine
- southofsteeles reblogged this from ytomatoboi
- southofsteeles likes this
- tarpo likes this
- westnilevirus1991 likes this
- rammyismine reblogged this from cutlerish and added:
- thatsknotcute likes this
- pongie likes this
- youve-got-lemon-make-lemonade reblogged this from durianseeds
- rosenewt likes this
- jllik likes this
- a-map-with-no-destination reblogged this from avoicecallingout
- whosecityisthis likes this
- avoicecallingout reblogged this from lacunaliliis
- avoicecallingout likes this
- countryangel66 likes this
- nomoremicrophones likes this
- vin-threw likes this
- lacunaliliis reblogged this from thebookworm
- sean-p3 likes this
- anatoxina reblogged this from ytomatoboi
- fyimango likes this
- ytomatoboi reblogged this from durianseeds
- idsploder likes this
- shunyu reblogged this from james-p-sullivan
- theresnothingtoseehere likes this
- laits-go reblogged this from james-p-sullivan and added:
- laits-go likes this
- james-p-sullivan reblogged this from taco-man-andre and added:
- dirtywaffles likes this