Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

“You Don’t Have to Say Sorry”

September 15, 2010 · No Comments

Last night, I had an experience that went completely against my understanding of one of the core pillars of Englishness as described by Kate Fox in Watching the English, namely the use of the word “Sorry.”  It all began when Stephenie and I decided to go the The One Tun to watch the Man U v. Rangers game, which they ended up not showing, favoring Tottenham v. Bremen.  We grabbed some fish and chips, and watched the game, while also playing pub trivia, which seems to be a weekly tradition there.  As we got up to leave, as often happens in any crowded place, a man bumped into me, and I automatically responded with a polite “Sorry,” just like Fox told me the English do.  This particular man was followed by a female, who I can only assume was the man’s girlfriend/wife.  This female character was the one that completely dismantled my understanding of English social interactions, because she said to me, and I quote, “We ran into you, you don’t need to say sorry.”  She was very polite about it (as is expected from an Englishperson), but it still was quite disconcerting.  What do you mean I don’t have to say “Sorry?”  This is England, for crying out loud!  “Sorry” is practically the national word!

After pondering this series of events over the last 24 hours or so, I have come up with several explanations for it.  The first of these is the fact that the woman seemed to be rather intoxicated, so maybe the depressive effects of the alcohol relaxed her normal English awkwardness so that she felt that “Sorry” wasn’t required.  However, I think it more likely had to do with the natural liminal properties of pubs.  Because the supposed English “social dis-ease” (which I haven’t experienced all that much in London), isn’t so severe in a pub setting, it might make sense that “Sorry” simply doesn’t apply as much, because the English are much less awkward around each other.  Even if this is true however, I am still terribly confused, and may not feel comfortable saying “Sorry” ever again.

Categories: 2010 MatthewM · Pubs · Uncategorized

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below..

You must log in to post a comment.