Archive for November 22nd, 2010

November 22, 2010

Sorry, continued

I explained the correct and necessary use of the word sorry here.  There are certainly more but first a let me talk about what  I think is an incorrect and downright silly abuse of the word and should be avoided.  However, it is necessary to understand how and why the word is used in certain contexts.

Sorry is often used when expressing a dissenting opinion – whether one is truly sorry for having or expressing it is irrelevant, it is just a set phrase to soften the blow of disagreement.

Person 1: “The US economy is headed for disaster.”

Person 2: “I am sorry, but I disagree, I think after a short down-cycle we see swift and complete recovery.”

There is a definite gender bias when it comes to the usage of the word sorry.  I haven’t done a study on it but anecdotal evidence suggests that women use it far more frequently then man.  I leave this observation stand without further comment.

November 22, 2010


Sorry is the most used, abused, and misused word in the English language, with the possible exception of the infamous f-word.  In the US  “sorry” used much (much, much) more frequently than in Europe (or at least in Germany) as an all purpose word to get attention, express regret, when passing by people, when touching them, when almost touching them, etc.

Here are some examples for what I consider legitimate use of the word:

Even in a crowd like that you use sorry to push through, pic:

Situation 1: You are at the supermarket and need to push your shopping cart by somebody else’s cart in the aisle.  Even if there is enough space to get by without touching the other person or his shopping cart you would never do that without saying “sorry” first.   And you don’t just mumble it, you say it out loud and wait for the other person to acknowledge you somehow, for example moving out of the way.  Most certainly the person will say “sorry” and move out of the way.

Situation 2:  you are in a hurry and need to get through a crowd fast.  You do not – ever – just push your way through.  It is considered extremely rude.  You are supposed to be polite, say “sorry” and you try and get around people, avoiding to touch anybody.  If you absolutely have to touch them you do so gingerly and say something a little stronger like “I am so very sorry”, or  “Excuse me, could you please let me pass, I am in a hurry”.

The whole pushing people around, bumping into them, stepping on their toes without as much as an “excuse me” is absolutely unthinkable here.  When in doubt, double up on the sorries, never leave them out.

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November 22, 2010

Of fish big and small

Big fish in a very small pond, pic: © Madartists |

There are a few idioms with fish, one of the more useful ones is “being a big fish in a small pond”.  Fish in this case stands for a person and so the expression refers to people who are important but only in a limited circle of influence, such as a small company or organization.  A permutation of this idiom is “being a little fish in a big pond”.

An example would be the CEO of a small company that gets acquired by a large multinational and now is senior director of something or another.  Before he was a big fish (boss man) in a small pond (small company) now he is a little fish (just one of many senior directors) in a big pond (big company).

Neither one of these options is necessarily better than the other, it is a matter of personal choice.