Thursday, October 24, 2013

Saying sorry

I am looking at a cartoon in the New Yorker magazine.

Two thugs in dark suits and dark glasses are threatening a man who is tied to a chair.

The caption reads, "I'm giving you one last chance to talk before Vinny says 'Please.'"

The title reads "The Canadian Mob."

There it is again, that stereotype of Canadians as faultlessly polite, exceedingly understanding, and mild mannered in the extreme.

Don't believe it.

Foreigners fail to understand that we are perhaps the world's most passive aggressive nationality.

Beneath a thin veneer of self control and feigned good humour, you will find condescension, disgust,  and repressed rage.

Canadians know that, when they say, "Sorry," it is rarely an apology. It is perhaps the most nuanced expression in English as she is spoke north of the 49th parallel.

The trained ear will detect subtle inflections that convey the real meaning.

"Sorry?" with a question mark and a raised eyebrow says, "I can't believe you just said that, you tool. That's the most idiotic thing I've heard today!"

"Sorry" with a chuckle, sometimes while covering the mouth, means, "Oops, I shouldn't have said, or done, that but I'm glad I did, and you're going to let me away with it, aren't you. (Particularly useful after farting audibly, or when elbowing one's way into a queue.)

"Sorry" with a smirk might convey, "I am so glad that I'm not you, you inferior twit. How do you stand yourself?"

"Sorry?" with a question mark, two raised eyebrows, and a stony stare says, "Oh yeah? What are you going to do about it, asshole?"

"SO-RREE!" loudly, drawn out, with equal emphasis on the last syllable, and an eye roll, means "You're the one who should be apologizing right now, but you don't seem to realize that, so I'm doing it for you."

"Sorry, but..." says, "You are absolutely misinformed about that and I am about to deliver a long, instructive, explanation that will correct your thinking, and you should be grateful," or "Damn it, I've been putting up with your crap for years and this is the moment when I unload all of things I've always wanted to say to you."

Sorry, but you need to know this stuff.