The hardest word


Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970)

In this classic film, Ryan O’Neal’s character utters the memorable lines: ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry.’

But what if love has nothing to do with it?

Are people noticing that ‘sorry’ is becoming an increasingly rare word? In the world of work and business, at least. No one seems willing to taking responsibility for mistakes anymore — the Wikileaks saga encapsulates this on a macro scale.


Typically, Mercury retrograde is throwing up its usual share of snafus and delays. I received a query today on a standing order for a bill that goes out regularly from my bank account every month automatically. The merchant sent me an email saying that I had missed a payment (for a very small amount, around US$2), with a nasty insinuation that I had intended to deceive them. I looked at my bank statements, sent a reply highlighting all the dates of payments, asking them to go over their records again. The response I got was simply: ‘Yes, we received it.’ Nothing more. I wouldn’t mind the lack of apology so much if the original accusation wasn’t so aggressive in the first place, but it’s all part of the same passive-aggressive posturing isn’t it?

Update, 15 December 2010: In contrast, ‘sorry’ seems to be more often used passive-aggressively, for example, in ‘I am sorry you were upset’, which was the response I got when I pointed out to the merchant I didn’t appreciate being insinuated a cheat. Not only am I potentially a cheat, I’m apparently emotionally unstable too!

So here’s a poll:

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