I was asked today why I say sorry so much.1
It’s true. I do say it a lot. I say “Sorry!” even if I am not even slightly at fault: like when, say, someone has bumped into me, or spilled something over me. I say sorry for pretty much everything. Even when I’m not at all sorry. Mostly when I’m not at all sorry.
As to the why of all those sorrys. I used to think it was just me. That I have this weird sorry-saying nervous tic. But I now know it’s cultural. I say sorry all the time because I am an Australian girl.
I realised this when I was living in Spain and one of my friends there blew up about it. She yelled at me that if I said sorry one more time it would drive her insane.2 That I could keep my “sorrys” and my “thank yous” and “pleases” and shove them [somewhere unpleasant]. She never wanted to hear them ever again. After that it became a joke between us. Every time I slipped up I would say—you guessed it—sorry. She would glare at me and then I would say sorry for saying sorry for saying sorry.
The Spanish, I learned, do not say “sorry”, “please” and “thank you” a million times a day.
When I went back to Sydney I noticed—for the first time—that I was not alone. Pretty much every woman I know says sorry just as much as I do. More even. It was quite the revelation.
I have since noticed that many English women suffer this malady. And quite a few USians—especially the ones from the South.
I have no idea what it means. But I have dark suspicions.