Non-apologies are a curious beast. I mean the kind of statement that purports to be an apology – e.g. for bad behaviour or hurtful remarks – but isn’t a sincere apology at all.
Linguistically and psychologically they fascinate me, even as they exasperate. So I wrote about this for Slate’s Lexicon Valley blog:
When guilty people aren’t really sorry (or are worried about the legal implications), they don’t want to make a direct, unqualified admission. This is not a definitive science: Someone might say “I’m very sorry for what I did” and not mean it, or apologize tortuously but with heartfelt intent. Nevertheless, non-apologies tend to ring conspicuously false, being variously couched in ifs, buts, hedges, deflection, qualification, self-absorption, euphemism, defensiveness, obfuscation, and the agentless passive voice (“Mistakes were made”). I’m just sorry I got called out is a common subtext.
Non-apologies also have a lot of names. I…
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