July 31, 2007

Maybe not as sorry as all that

To Roger's enumeration of the features of conventionalized apologies we can add those clauses that serve to extenuate ill-considered statements, where the blame is laid on an unfortuate choice of words, often compounded by the uncooperativeness of one's hearers ("I'm sorry if my remarks left the impression that...."). Though it's worth bearing in mind that sometimes we have an interest in conveying that a deliberately chosen utterance was a mistake, if only to reassure our listeners of our benign intentions. All of which I raise entirely as a pretext for posting my favorite cartoon by George Price, the greatest draughtsman ever to have graced The New Yorker's pages. The caption, for the diopterically challenged: "It's a typographical error, but have no mercy on me."

Posted by Geoff Nunberg at July 31, 2007 01:09 PM