Synopses & Reviews
People do bad things. They misspeak, mislead, and misbehave. They lie, cheat, steal, and kill. Often, afterward, they apologize. But what makes a successful apology? Why does Joe Biden's 2007 apology for referring to Barack Obama as "articulate and bright" succeed, whereas Mel Gibson's 2006 apology for his anti-Semitic tirade fails? Naturally, the effectiveness of an apology depends on the language used, as well as the conditions under which we offer our regrets.
In Sorry About That, linguist Edwin Battistella analyzes the public apologies of presidents, politicians, entertainers, and businessmen, situating the apology within American popular culture. Battistella offers the fascinating stories behind these apologies alongside his own analysis of the language used in each. He uses these examples to demonstrate the ways in which language creates sincere or insincere apologies, why we choose to apologize or don't, and how our efforts to say we are sorry succeed or fail.
Each chapter expands on a central concept or distinction that explains part of the apology process. Battistella covers over fifty memorable apologies from McDonald's, Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Bill Clinton, and many more. Moving back and forth between examples and concepts, Battistella connects actual apologies with the broader social, ethical, and linguistic principles behind them. Readers will come away from the book better consumers of apologies - and better apologizers as well.
"Conditional apologies, vague apologies, apologies not accepted: Why is it so hard to say we're sorry and be done with it? With a clear eye and prose that never drags, Ed Battistella brilliantly illuminates the hidden dynamics of public apologies from the Oprah Winfrey Show to Mel Gibson's downfall and from Joe Biden's doubletalk to Woodrow Wilson's shoelace-chewing mea culpa. You won't be sorry you read this book." --David Skinner, author of The Story of Ain't: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published
"Sorry About That is a bracing catalogue of human folly that stuck with me after I'd finished reading it. Battistella provides a panoramic view of shameful episodes and the subsequent apologies, confessions, and denials whose language he keenly dissects, in order to show all the ways that we have to genuinely apologize -- and to wiggle free. Observers of public language will love the book. (So too, alas, will serial offenders.)" --Michael Erard, author of Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners
About the Author
Edwin L. Battistella
teaches linguistics and writing at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, where he has served as a dean and as interim provost. He is the author of Do You Make These Mistakes in English?
(OUP, 2009), Bad Language
(OUP, 2005), and The Logic of Markedness
Table of Contents
1. The Scope of Apologies
2. How Apologies Succeed and Fail
3. How We Literally Apologize
4. Sorry, Regrets, and More
5. True Confessions
6. Verbal Self-defense
7. National Apologies
8. International Apologies
9. Why We Apologize, or Don't
10. Apology in American Culture
A Reader's Guide to Analyzing Apologies