Let Me Put You Onto Something: A New Way Of Apologizing

Canova's Apology of Socrates

Previously in this series: No music during dinner.

Canova's Apology of Socrates

I'm reluctant to advise the more widespread adoption of Britishisms, not because I begrudge the British their customs but because I think an American (I presume most of you are American, as is my custom) who cultivates even the slightest Anglo affect can only demean themselves and embarrass others. That being said, I think we ought to pick up soz, or some other abbreviation like it, as it performs a necessary, possibly even a critical, linguistic function that to the best of my knowledge no other word in American English presently does.

(Soz is short for "Sorry" in particularly low-impact situations; it's an example of rhotacism, which I don't understand very well, and has something to do with swapping out "alveolar consonants" and "rhotic consonants"

There are sarcastic, condescending apologies, delivered either forcefully through the teeth or airily over the soft palate, and are meant to inform the recipient of the apology that they are being dramatic, overly sensitive, and probably badly dressed, too: "I'll apologize, but only because you are insisting on the strictest-possible interpretation of the law. The most you're getting out of me is what you're legally owed." That's not what soz does.

There is "Sorry/not sorry," a very lightly cheeky expression which reached its greatest popularity perhaps ten years ago, while before that there was the non-apology apology, which was less cheeky but otherwise amounted to the same thing. In both cases the apology-giver is trying to minimize or displace their culpability – but that is not what soz does either.

What soz does do is combine full responsibility (I did it, the fault is mine, there's no one else to blame, let it be on my head) with a simultaneous clarification of the stakes (it's not very important). It's sincere but cheap, like a B-movie.

Now, you can't go around introducing soz (or, ideally, a nicer-sounding equivalent) into genuinely important issues; that's an obvious misuse and will get you banned from the clubhouse. "I slew him, soz" will obviously not wash. But as far as I can tell, there's not another word in English that does a neater job of saying "I'm truly sorry, but this doesn't especially matter, and if you stay angry about it for longer than 30 seconds, you're an ass and a boor, whereas I am a cheerful and forthright excellent sport who's not afraid to own up to his mistakes" in fewer syllables.

Since I'm always looking for shortcuts when it comes to maintaining the upper hand, both conversationally and temperamentally, I think we ought to look for a usable American "soz" equivalent as soon as possible. I propose a twelve-man expedition, with enough provisions to last us through the winter if necessary, and a single ship, so that we might travel the faster; if Your Majesties will grant us a charter and supply us with a small bit of capital to get the exploration party out of Calais, I believe we'll see results by spring, if not sooner, and with no loss of life, either. Yours most sincerely, &c.