Sorry in German and more

I hear a borrowed English word ‘sorry’ more often than any of its German equivalents. Somehow Germans like this word. The online Duden dictionary gives the definition of the word as: ‘freundschaftliche Höflichkeitsformel zur Entschuldigung’ and notices that German ‘sorry’ comes from English ‘sorry’ (who would have doubt about that?!). Duden dictionary remarks that ‘sorry’ belongs to colloquial speech. It is such a relief to know that! For some reasons, I feel that Germans do not treat ‘sorry’ the same way as native English speakers do.

A German middle-age cashier dropped my credit card in a convenience store. He acted as if he was extremely irritated by that small incident and his ‘sorry’ did not sound apologizing at all. When I hear ‘sorry’ from Germans I feel as if they do not really mean they are sorry. I feel as if they do not take this word seriously and treat it as a foreign word. I am under the impression that they want to detach themselves from the reality. Universal short ‘sorry’ makes it so much easier! ‘Sorry’ takes like a second to say.

Long German ‘Entschuldigung; Es tut mir leid’ etc. disappear from the everyday conversations. I am not saying that everyone does it. Nevertheless, some Germans tend to use ‘sorry’ because of its convenience.

The only time someone said ‘Entschuldigung’ to me outside of the German language classroom was a foreign woman (how do I know she is not German? She was wearing hijab and spoke with an accent).

In Chinese, Japanese and some other cultures people do not really say: ‘I love you’ to each other. It sounds awkward if you say ‘I love you’ to your parents or your loved ones before you leave for a trip or in the end of a phone conversation, for example. You show your love and affection through your actions. They speak louder than words. People who come from such cultures and who are married to a native English speaker, often, find it easy to say ‘I love you’ in English, but not in their native language. Why so?

Well, English ‘I love you’ sounds so much easier to say! English ‘I love you’ is something you hear people saying frequently. Of course, there are native English speakers who feel that the more you say it, the less meaning it has. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of saying ‘I love you’ all the time. Nonetheless, as you say it in English, you do not feel odd; you do not feel the pressure from expressing your feelings openly.

In my view, similar thing is happening in Germany. Saying ‘sorry’ does not make you feel sorry. You do not really admit you have done something incorrect. ‘Sorry’ makes it easier to apologize without thinking of your fault. And, it does save the time. Is it good or bad? That’s up to you to decide. I find it a bit funny, that if you look up how to say ‘sorry’ in German on the Internet, you will find many ways of translation. In fact, you can leave the translation aside. Sorry is also a German word.


2 thoughts on “Sorry in German and more

  1. This was pretty amazingly written, and a great analysis of how we use different languages to express different sentiments.

    The use of a borrowed word, I imagine, makes it easy for the Germans to distance themselves from the sentiment it usually expresses: Remorse.

    I love how OK (Or O.K., or okay) has become universal. It’s almost literally part of every language now. Perhaps because its translatability into different phonetical schemes–The sounds are simple and syllables distinct. In Chinese, to say “Are you ready?” you say “Haole ma?” Hao (good) + le (“now” as in “it’s all good now”) + ma (question word). Our calligraphy teacher in China, though, to see if we were ready for the next step, asked us “OK-le ma?” And weirdly, it sounded totally natural. Now sometimes if I’m speaking a different language I’ll just say “OK” with no hangups, and it feels good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the interesting comment! 谢谢! I agree with you on OK. English language has a huge amount of influence over many languages in general. I can be handy when foreigners speak to each other.:)


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