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8 Comments

  • Yes, I was struck by Rupert Murdoch’s ‘This is the most humble day of my life’ too and agree that it sounds odd. I thought he probably meant to say ‘humbling’, which wouldn’t suggest quite as much self-abasement as ‘humiliating’ would have done.

  • “Because if you really say you’re sorry, it’s an admission of guilt”

    And if you really mean it – and it’s not just regret at being caught – then it’s an expression of sincere humility, too. You can’t see me, but I’m wearing my Not Convinced hat.

    Qualified apologies have become almost an art form. Thanks for this clear analysis.

  • Like Andrew, I also wondered if ‘humbling’ would have been a better word to go with ‘day’. But the corpus data suggests that’s not quite right either. ‘Humbling’ is often found with adjectives like ‘uplifting’ and ‘inspiring’. There area couple of cases where a celebrity visits a group of disabled children in Africa and describes the experience as ‘humbling’ – implying a sense of perspective about your own trivial problems when faced with other people’s heroism. That doesn’t really fit the situation we have here. I heard that most of the foreign newspapers translated Rupert’s ‘humble’ as ‘humiliating’, but not sure if that proves anything!

  • Thought provoking analysis of well known myth. I also believe ‘I Love You” is a similar example. It means mostly what it does. Nonetheless, it is used as frequently as saying ‘Thank you’ and four letter ‘F’ word.

    Overall I loved it.
    Thanks for your time.

    PS: Yes! I’m not making sense here.

  • True apologies follow the Sacrament of Penance: they require confession (“I did wrong”), contrition (“I am very sorry for what I did”) and promise of amendment (“I promise never to do it again”). If these are lacking, what you have is a pseudo-apology. Unlike the Sacrament, apologies to fellow human beings are not necessarily followed by absolution (“I forgive you for what you did wrong”), but to my mind that is all the more reason for giving them.

  • […] Michael Rundell’s blog post made the point that proper apologies require speakers to accept their role as agent of the misdeed. Again, speech act theory supports his view by including a condition that our words count as an apology only if we express a harmful act we carried out. Our letter writer implies his area’s agency for misdeeds by writing, “our delays” and “our performance issues.” Because the letter writer expressed no sorrow about the misdeeds, it’s not possible for him to accept agency. […]