A Sorry Excuse

Suppose you were to come round a street corner and almost bump into a person going the other way. Odds are, nowadays, that one or both of you will say “sorry!”.

This is new. Once upon a time we would have said “excuse me.” What changed?

I think it must be that the primary sense of “excuse me” has gone from meaning “please forgive me for being in your way” to “I’m coming through, please get out of my way”. Nowadays people might take “excuse me” to mean “what the hell are you thinking, getting in my way like that??”

Am I right? Has anyone else noticed this? If this is indeed what’s happened, what underlying social change is this symptomatic of?


  1. bob koepp says

    The social change may simply be a change of linguistic fashion — similar to the (unfortunate) change from ‘sympathy’ to ’empathy’.

    Posted July 12, 2010 at 6:58 am | Permalink
  2. It’s all the fault of Steve Martin — and long past time for him to apologize, too!

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted July 12, 2010 at 7:29 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    You know, Jeffery, I though of him as a possible culprit also.

    Wonder what he’d say if I called him on it.

    Posted July 12, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink
  4. “Wonder what he’d say if I called him on it.”

    Probably just some sorry excuse . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted July 12, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

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