In a word . . . sorry

Photograph: Tooga

Photograph: Tooga

 

The adjective sorry is said to have originated with the Old English sarig, meaning “distressed, grieved, full of sorrow”. It used to be the hardest word. Now everyone is at it.

Bankers, politicians, developers, regulators (so-called), the more humble economists (a few), the “caught in the act” public-relations consultants . . .

Sorry, I mean, apologies. Public-relations consultants/spin doctors do not say sorry. They just tell other people how to do so without smiling in front of cameras. They school the guilty in faking sincerity so the guilty can retain their great wealth/fat pensions but pay horrendous fees to public-relations consultants/spin doctors for advising them on doing the obvious.

Sorry is now the easiest word.

I remember when love meant never having to say you’re sorry. Admittedly a lack of love has pushed our bankers, politicians, developers, etc to say sorry. But back then, in the last millennium, the phrase meant that only lovers didn’t have to apologise for offence caused. Even then that was nonsense.

It was a slogan used to sell the film Love Story, in 1970, in which the gorgeous Ali MacGraw seduced cinema audiences by the millions, before her character got cancer and died a stunning corpse in the arms of Ryan O’Neal.

Not a dry eye in the house sort of film. Remember his shameless tear-inducing opening line: “What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach? The Beatles? And me?”

Sick or what? And I don’t mean her. Even then Pope Paul VI is said to have praised it for the love it portrayed. And that paragon, former US president Richard Nixon – he praised it too, but demurred at the language used in it. A few years later the world would know what a dab hand he was at the old expletives himself. Tricky Dicky indeed.

I remember the first time I saw Love Story. I was just a kid and it was in the Ambassador, then a huge cinema, at the top of O’Connell Street in Dublin. It was packed, and soon the sobbing threatened to drown out what was happening on screen. Then someone at the back started to guffaw and it spread through the cinema like a virus. Soon everyone was laughing, but it felt more hysterical than funny.

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