Possible Meanings of “Sorry”

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash
  • I wish you hadn’t caught me doing the thing that, now that I think about it, I’m not actually that sorry about.
  • I feel bad for you and am unsure how to express it and too socially awkward to hug you.
  • I wish I could make it better for you.
  • I didn’t hear you.
  • I heard you, but didn’t understand you.
  • I heard you, understood the words, but am aghast that anyone could hold your preposterous view.
  • I was in your way and I understand that this is why you stood on my foot.
  • I am coming past you, don’t move.
  • I am not sorry at all, and I hope you don’t think I should be.
  • I think *you* should be sorry.
  • I should have anticipated you would react this way, and I am irritated with myself for not foreseeing it, and/or with you for being like this.
  • I want this argument to end because you are annoying me.
  • This situation is awkward and I’m not sure how to get out of it, so I’ll try the universal awkward-situation-diffusing word and see if that works.

Editor of WALK WITH US: How the West Wing Changed Our Lives; author of the novel UNSCRIPTED and of CONQUERING BABEL: a Practical Guide to Learning a Language.

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