Is It Too Late Now To Say Sorry?

“Bill looked at Dave. He seemed so happy stringing his pebbles together. “Hey Dave,” Bill whispered, “I’m sorry I hit your mom over the head with my club. I really did think that she was a woolly mammoth.” “Are you kidding, Bill?” Dave exclaimed. He looked up from his beads. “Don’t apologize. I’ve done that myself once” he paused. “…or twice.””

– Excerpt from Life of Dave, Caveman Extraordinaire

Life is complicated, and the material world is ephemeral. Sometimes, you don’t update your blog for five long months. Sometimes, you accidentally listen to a catchy Justin Bieber song, and it haunts you for weeks. Sometimes, you hit a friend’s mother with a wooden club. Things happen.

If there’s one constant, however, it would be this: apologies.

Apologies have been around forever. They are, quite literally, the oldest trick in the book. According to Psychology Today’s interpretation (psychoanalysis?) of the Talmud – the holy book of Rabbinic Judaism – God created repentance before He created the universe. This tells us two significant things:

  1. We probably shouldn’t let Psychology Today near any more holy books.
  2. We were born sorry.

And it’s not just Rabbinic Judaism. Several major faiths are founded on the idea of the apology. Forgiveness. Absolution. Sitting in a small dark room, confessing all your sins to someone you can’t see (which also happens surprisingly often on Friday nights in college dorms). And if you’re an atheist, there’s something in here for you too – guilty consciences are thought to have evolved from social instincts. Just think about it: what sort of world would we be living in if no one ever said the word “sorry”?

A world full of meanies.

What also matters is how you say it. Today, as I struggle to word my perfect apology, I shake my fist and curse my favorite cavemen, Dave and Bill. Damn you, Dave and Bill. You had it so easy. In my world, if you want to get your apology noticed, you have to write it in giant letters across the sky. Or you have to be an annoying Canadian child with floppy hair and write a Number 1 Hit with a music video featuring twerking women. Or you have to buy, like, a present or something. As if global warming isn’t stressful enough.

It was easier when I was kid. I’ve always been a very apologetic person, aided by the fact that I probably did a lot of things that required copious amounts of apologizing. Exhibit A:

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But now that I am a raucous youth freed from the protective helmet of childhood, I am not permitted to be mainstream. A poetically simple “Sorry, dude”, as it turns out, is *scoffs* formulaic. And unlike most things, I’m not even making this up. According to linguist AJ Meier, “The most frequently occurring apology strategy has generally been found to be a formulaic expression of apology (i.e., an expression containing apologize, sorry, forgive, excuse, pardon).” Well, I’m no expert, but this may be because it’s hard to say sorry without actually, well, saying sorry.

To dissect this further, I conducted my own extensive research, and I have discovered that a successful apology consists of three parts:

  1. “You were right”: Acknowledgement of the object’s superiority and the subject’s current state of vulnerability.
  2. “I was dumb”: Acknowledgement of the fact that what the subject did was inexcusable and cannot be justified.
  3. “Sorry”: The operative; conclusive.

Of course, this is just a template, and although it is very scientific and well-researched and generally excellent, there are few exceptions. For example, #2 doesn’t apply to some countries in the African continent, where people apologize for all and any unfortunate things that happen to you, even if it happened through no fault of their own. For instance, if you trip over your own foot, you would hear a chorus of “I’m sorry”. Likewise, the Japanese have 20 different ways of apologizing, and probably have a much more complex system of sorries, corrected to 52 decimal places. But regardless of complexity or culture, you can’t have an apology without an apology.

Or so I thought.

There’s this guy called Plato. Funny beard, kind of annoying; maybe you’ve heard of him. Many years ago, Plato wrote a book called Apology. I found out about it some months ago, when I discovered that it was a reading for a Plato-centric course. After three months of reading things like, “I don’t think that you’re unfortunate – I know you are” and “Man is a two-legged animal without feathers”, I was thrilled to see “Plato’s Apology” at the end of the reading list. So pompous li’l Smarty McFancypants was finally going to apologize for the hell he put us through. About time, chump.

I was wrong.

  1. The word “sorry” does not appear even once in the entire text.
  2. In fact, it’s 9000 words of the worst apology ever.
  3. A quote: “Now please, men of Athens, do not make a disturbance, not even if I seem to you to be boasting somewhat.” – Plato. (read: somewhat)
  4. Another quote: “I am wise.” – Plato

I had almost convinced myself that Plato was an ancestor of Kanye West, when I realized something groundbreaking: the word “apology”, in ancient Greek, is “apologia” – which means “a speech made in defense of”. This is basically the opposite of an apology. Plato wasn’t trying to apologize. He was trying to defend himself, and his main ho Socrates.

Clearly, Plato isn’t going to be of any help to my perfect apology. Not like he’s ever of any help anyway.

It’s comforting to know, however, that apologies have evolved from an ancient Greek word that means something quite different, to become the harbingers of modern human civilization. They started out as not being apologies as we know them, and today they have found an integral place in the world’s major religions, in our daily lives and conversational vocabulary, and most importantly, in a Justin Bieber song. There’s an inspirational message in there somewhere.

And so, enkindled by the imperfection of the apology as a construct, I’m going to apologize the only way I know how.

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Will you?

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In Which I Confuse People. And Myself.

What do you call facial hair on a cow?
A moo-stache.

Now that I’ve successfully managed to cull most of my readership, I think it’s time for a little clarification: this is a humour blog.

As much as I’ve succeeded in proving otherwise, I try my best, in every post, to be funny. You may not believe it. It’s absolutely 100% true – these are my best efforts. Which, ironically, is quite funny if you think about it.

Anyway, the blog is called “Funny for Nothing” and although the operative here is “funny”, I am infinitely more adept at the “nothing” bit – and that’s the closest I’ll come to an apology for not writing in a month and a half. I live on my own terms, bro.

As I have so magnificently demonstrated in the last forty-three posts, humour is hard. Of course, some people are just pure comic genius – take Charlie Chaplin for example, in The Great Dictator. Rather eerily, my humour also happens to be like the Great Dictator. I think that everyone’s laughing at my jokes (“Why was Hitler so surprised by the Allied advance? Because he did nazi it coming”) but actually, they’re just laughing at my teeny tiny moustache and ugly haircut.

Every time I write a post, I have to focus all my efforts on being funny. I’ve got to get in the groove, thinking, ‘Be funny, Mushroom Sup. Be funny. You got this’ and then taking deep breaths and doing my humour exercises, which are elaborate and super technical and difficult to explain to such a Plebeian crowd, but mostly consist of me putting my head in a paper bag and imagining Chairman Mao as a toddler.

As a rule, this does not work. Well, it does work in a sense; my mother generally tells me to stop “acting funny” (I have been informed that there is a subtle difference) followed by “you didn’t get this from my side of the family”. Which is probably what Mao’s mum told him when he tried to get the Chinese to manufacture steel in their kitchen stoves using old bicycle parts. Good guy.

On the other hand, whatever little wit I managed to accidentally churn out online dissipates entirely in real-life interactions. It is precisely the sort of thing for which the word “worse” was invented.

I am the meteorite of comebacks (I tend to crash and burn):

“Yo mamma’s fat!”
“Yeah? Well…“fat” is a relative term! Ha!”

Most of my wit occurs in retrospect. If I had a catchphrase it would be “Oh shoot, I should have said that!” To counter this, I’ve fallen into the habit of rehearsing situations in which I might be required to say something witty. I’m still waiting for a situation in which someone says something ridiculous about semi-aquatic marine mammals, so that I can say “That has got to be the seal-iest thing I’ve ever heard!” and then there will be uproarious laughter, following which everyone will applaud my razor-sharp wit and perspicacity, which I will then humbly attribute to my gifted genetic make-up.

Sometimes, though, I get lucky, and somebody does say something about semi-aquatic marine mammals, and even then, I successfully manage to botch up the whole operation.

Friend: “Hey, you know Flapper, that seal at the zoo…”
Me (*interrupts*): “OMG THAT’S SO SEALY HAHAHAHA”
Friend: “…he died yesterday.”

And then, in a flash of unparalleled brilliance,

Me: “…did he kick the fish bucket?”

…which is followed by a brief, horrified silence. Until I make it worse:

Me: “Is this crowd dead? I mean, c’mon guys, don’t be Flapper”

It’s helpful when your audience bursts into tears; that’s usually your cue to stop talking. But, well, you live and you learn. Oh darn, not again (sorry Flapper).

This is probably why I find I’m so bad at making friends. Everybody loves a funny person, and by logical extension of this fact, everybody hates me. Okay, fine, not “hate”, it’s more like, “I’m not sure if she just made a joke but she said something and laughed hysterically so I’m just going to chuckle to be safe and then back away slowly because she’s scaring me a little”. Most of my friends are my friends on the condition that I don’t try my hand at humour within a ten-mile radius of them.

They made me sign a document.

But you know what’s even harder than humour? Ending posts. It’s important for the end to leave an impact, but not be too abrupt.

Writing makes me feel like Iron Man.

The first story I ever wrote was about an anthropomorphic tiger named Timothy. I was 7 and the story had been lifted directly from a book of bedtime stories that I had read multiple times. It was my first act of plagiarism. Not intentional, of course, but my naïve young mind believed that this story was a product of my own wondrous imagination. For all the adulation I received, I believed that I was a child prodigy, like Mozart, or Christopher Robin.

I wasn’t, obviously. But that’s when I realized how much I liked to plagiarize write.

I wrote my first poem soon after. It came to me in a flash of brilliance. I called it ‘Baa Baa White Sheep’. It was exactly like ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ but with ‘White’ instead of ‘Black’. I suppose I was a little racist back then.

Eventually, I understood the concept of originality and wrote my first real original poem. It was called ‘Wishes’. It went like this:

Once Peggy broke five dishes,
A genie came and gave her some wishes,
‘I want a pony’ Peggy said.
Four wishes left.

Once Peggy broke five dishes,
A genie came and gave her some wishes,
‘I want some cookies’ Peggy said.
Three wishes left.

And it continues like this until Peggy exhausts all of her five wishes.

It was basically an amalgamation of my experience with Disney movies, household chores involving crockery and Enid Blyton books. Also, some sporadic rhyme thrown in for good measure. Till date, it is the best thing I have ever written.

My point is, I’ve always loved to write. When people ask me what my hobby is, I say, “Writing”. Some people look at me like I’m soft in the head when I say this because they think that I mean just writing in general – putting a pen to paper and writing random words. Okay, I’ll admit, that is kind of what I do. But not in the ‘practising my handwriting’ sense, of course (which is what people often assume I mean). The effect is amplified if I say “Reading and writing”. It’s like something a kindergartner would say – “In class today, we practiced our reading and writing.”

I’m not going to say that I like writing because it gives me the freedom of expression or that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ Honestly, I can express myself just as well through speech, and swords can kill people whereas pens can’t (unless wielded by dangerous psychopathic criminals).

I like to write because it makes me seem smart.

I agree – this blog is definitely not evidence for the aforementioned statement. But when you write you can simply string together a random set of words without people thinking that you’re crazy. For example, if I write, “Onward he writ, a walk from lands away”, people would have a thousand interpretations for it and I would probably be lauded as a literary genius. In fact, this was probably William Shakespeare’s modus operandi. He just looked around his bedroom, wrote down any observable nouns, and then filled in the gaps with archaic pronouns, preposition and punctuation.
“Thou hast no wardrobe for thy portly attire, light bids thou farewell.”
Voila! You have an instant Shakespearean quote.

On the other hand, if I actually said something like that out loud, I would face one of two possible outcomes:
1. I would be in the hospital for treatment for possible aphasia OR
2. My mother would yell at me for “sassing” her.

Other than the fact that writing can make me sound smart (something which is so difficult to put across verbally in my case) I also love to write because it gives me a sense of power. I don’t advocate that a pen can be used as a weapon of course. Homer’s Odyssey on the other hand…pretty potent, that. I speak from experience.

No, what I mean is that being able to write allows you to write anything that you want to read. If it hasn’t been written, you can write it. Well, you can write it even if it has been written, as my childhood writing exploits have demonstrated. But this is generally frowned upon by society.

So there you go. Writing is fun. Writing makes you sound smart. Writing gives you power. Basically, writing is like being Iron Man.

It’s a wonder more people don’t do it.