Everything Language and Grammar

I’m Sorry If I Offended Anyone

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 23, 2008

I have one piece of advice to all would-be apologists out there: If you’re not sorry, then don’t apologize!

I am tired of hearing the standard non-apology of I’m sorry if I offended anyone. Apologies are not conditional upon whether the listener was offended. The only condition should be that the person who made the mistake wants to express his or her regret in a sincere way.

This, I believe, is the first entry that is also included in the book, but I felt the need to talk about it when I heard Bill O’Reilly’s supposed apology for an offensive comment related to Michelle Obama (MediaMatters.org report on Bill O’Reilly). It was a classic non-apology–I’m sorry if my statement offended anyone.

In other words, Bill O’Reilly was not sorry for what he said–the offensive comment. He was sorry if anyone was offended, so I’m left to assume that Bill, himself, didn’t find the comment to be offensive; otherwise, Bill would have said something similar to I used poor judgment, and I’m sorry for the offensive comment.

Then why is he pretending to apologize–and using language to try to fool people into believing it?

–Paul

Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

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2 Responses to “I’m Sorry If I Offended Anyone”

  1. Paul Grady said

    Hard to take MediaMatters.org seriously, especially when talking about O’Reilly! I always check the source before reading the story. There is enough reasonable media out there to give Media Matters the time of day.

  2. robin oberg said

    It’s very interesting that apologies can be conditional. It makes it so more social and existential. It’s not about a feeling, people don’t feel sorry, it’s about making amends, mending bonds. “I’m sorry if I offend you” implies by logic “I’m not sorry if you’re not offended” :)

    But then it can also just be rhetorics, maybe “I’m sorry if I offend you” has the connotation “I beg for your forgiveness”. Humans aren’t logical after all, and context is everything, and there’s a difference between a signifier and it’s signified.

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