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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-01-30 16:24
Subject: Defects in the mother tongue
Security: Public
Tags:funny, language, words
The problem with "I'm sorry" as an expression of sympathy is that there is a strongly implied apology in that phrase. English needs a colloquial way to express sympathy without culpability.

Besides "that sucks", I mean.
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Steve
User: mroctober
Date: 2007-01-31 00:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"My condolences"?
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Bob
User: yourbob
Date: 2007-01-31 00:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"I'm sorry" has definitly lost much of it's sympathy meaning recently, in my experience. It's been my standard quick sympathy phrase for years, but in the last year or so the reply seems always to be "but it's not your fault."
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The NewroticGirl: worst ever
User: newroticgirl
Date: 2007-01-31 00:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:worst ever
Agreed. My usual response to an "I'm sorry" to me is a "It's not your fault." Even though I know it's meant for sympathy, not accepting blame. Stupid language.
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Laura Anne Gilman
User: suricattus
Date: 2007-01-31 00:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Dude. Bummer."
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User: swan_tower
Date: 2007-01-31 00:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My boy and I tell each other it's a "sympathy sorry." Which would not work for daily life, but it's one of our verbal quirks.
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Patron Saint of Pessimism
User: woodrunner
Date: 2007-01-31 01:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
A while back, a law was passed in Canada (I forget which part, but I'm sure it's my province, if not the whole of the country) where someone cannot be considered culpable merely because they say "I'm sorry". While it wasn't passed hand-in-hand with the Good Samaritan law, where someone cannot be sued because they helped - or, God forbid, didn't help, it rather amused me that we Canucks need a law to tell us that it's okay to say "I'm sorry."

I use "I'm sorry" as much an expression of sympathy (though I do say "please accept my sympathies for...") as for genuine apologies and also for sarcastic "gee I'm sorry" comebacks.

I suppose it matters for the context, at least for me.

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Darja
User: ombriel
Date: 2007-01-31 01:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"So sorry to hear that" has more connotation of regret than "I'm sorry."
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Jeremy Tolbert
User: the_flea_king
Date: 2007-01-31 01:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Dimitri Martin tells a joke on his latest album:

"I'm sorry and I apologize mean exactly the same thing. Exactly the same thing. Unless you're at a funeral."
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thecrimsony
User: thecrimsony
Date: 2007-01-31 02:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ha!
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seventorches
User: seventorches
Date: 2007-01-31 01:11 (UTC)
Subject: All human languages have this flaw.
My usual response to "I'm sorry" is "thank you". It's a social lie, people, like "How are you?" The correct answer is "I'm fine, how are you?", not "I'm off my meds and my feet are cold." (Lie is the wrong word, but I don't remember now the technical term for saying things you don't literally mean but which are intended to enable some sort of social bonding.)

The root of "I'm sorry" is "I feel sorrow". I don't think anybody who says it actually feels much sorrow. If it really bothers you, try "I'm sorry to hear that" or "I'm sorry for your loss". (replace "loss" with whatever seems appropriate)

Where would society be if we ran around being literal about language that is just manners. It's the speech act that counts. Following a formulaic convention makes it easier, but unfortunately, we've lost the sense that convention can be a good thing, ("I don't want to be conventional" causes SO many problems) and that formulaic, ritual speech can also convey true feeling.

ALL human languages have this flaw. Human beings LIE ALL THE TIME.

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thecrimsony
User: thecrimsony
Date: 2007-01-31 02:22 (UTC)
Subject: Re: All human languages have this flaw.
For the past few years, I have tended to actually answer people when the ask "How are you?" or "How's it going?". After a few times, it tends to keep them from even greeting me in a casual pass, which I'm fine with.

I blame my wife as she's not one to beat around the bush or place nicey-nice just to avoid a touchy subject. She's much more likely to say "Well that sucks" over "I'm sorry." :)
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Laura Anne Gilman
User: suricattus
Date: 2007-01-31 03:07 (UTC)
Subject: Re: All human languages have this flaw.
my irritation is with "are you all right?" when the person has been given a visual or aural clue (like the other person swearing or bleeding) that the person is NOT okay.

a friend of mine defused the situation by saying "are you all right and by that I mean I know you're not is there anything I can do?" all in one breath when I was clearly in pain.

We need a shorter phrase.
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Zachary Spector
User: blackmonkeymage
Date: 2007-01-31 05:20 (UTC)
Subject: Re: All human languages have this flaw.
What's wrong with "Can I help?"
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juliabk
User: juliabk
Date: 2007-01-31 15:41 (UTC)
Subject: Re: All human languages have this flaw.
While I agree completely in theory, "Can I help?" is another loaded phrase that offers far more than most people are willing, or even able, to give. If the response is "give me a new kidney", most are going to not 'help'. ;-) It's too open-ended most of the time. I confess that I tend to get all maternal and bossy when I see someone in obvious distress and just start doing things. What I say greatly depends on the situation and my relationship with the person.
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Dan/Дмитрий
User: icedrake
Date: 2007-01-31 03:48 (UTC)
Subject: Re: All human languages have this flaw.
The appropriate question is "What're you at?"

Because in most parts of the world, it will result in a very blank look :) (the exceptions being Great Big Sea fans and Newfies)
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gvdub
User: gvdub
Date: 2007-01-31 03:52 (UTC)
Subject: Re: All human languages have this flaw.
Don't forget New Orleans where the most common greeting is "Where y'at?" or "'yat?" for short.
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User: creed_of_hubris
Date: 2007-01-31 02:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
What a shame.
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M.K. Hobson
User: mkhobson
Date: 2007-01-31 05:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
What a shame!
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M.K. Hobson
User: mkhobson
Date: 2007-01-31 05:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hah. Didn't see the one right before me. What a shame indeed! ;-)
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scarlettina
User: scarlettina
Date: 2007-01-31 05:53 (UTC)
Subject: Any of these might work...
My condolences.

My sympathies.

Instead of just "I'm sorry," you could be specific and say "I'm sorry for your loss."

How can I help?
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mevennen
User: mevennen
Date: 2007-01-31 10:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Unless you are British, in which case the thiing for which you are sorry (death by tsunami, volcanic eruption, Black Death) is somehow intrinsically the fault of the person saying "I'm sorry."

We all understand this. No one minds.
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russ
User: goulo
Date: 2007-01-31 17:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Bummer. Bummer, man. That's too bad. Sorry to hear that. I hope it works out. I hope you feel better (etc, as appropriate to specific situation).

Or of course there's always "That which does not kill you makes you stronger", or "Shut up, you whiny crybaby." Wait, maybe not.
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