What do you call a justification-apology?
May 15, 2018 11:27 PM   Subscribe

We've all heard it: "I'm so sorry the bell woke you, but my delivery arrived 20m earlier than it said on the website." "I'm sorry I forgot to put your clothes in the dryer like I'd agreed, but I've had a stressful day." What do you call an apology that's actually more about explaining the mistake?
posted by yaymukund to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
A defensive apology. A genuine excuse would be something that was actually unavoidable and prevented the person from doing the right thing. "I'm sorry I forgot to put your clothes in the dryer, but I got a call that mom was in the hospital and had to leave at once." A contrite apology would be "I'm sorry I didn't put your clothes... my bad. I'll go take care of it now." And a defensive apology is like your examples, the kind that says "Okay, I did wrong, but somehow I don't deserve the consequences of my mistake." That's how I see things.

This article at Harvard Business Review has a pretty good taxonomy of bad apologies, too: Empty Apology, Excessive Apology, the Incomplete Apology (no contrition) and the Denial.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:43 PM on May 15 [12 favorites]

Yeah, I think "excuse" is the word here.
posted by milk white peacock at 11:57 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]

I call them "I'm-sorry-buts"s. Or if they're making an ass out of themselves by offering it, just a "sorry, butt."

Or the even worse "sorry you" where the person giving the ostensible apology immediately blames the other party for causing them to do whatever they're apologizing for.
posted by Candleman at 12:06 AM on May 16 [4 favorites]

Well, that first one I would call a “reason”. There was something out of my control, I wasn’t trying to be an asshole, I hope you understand.
posted by sageleaf at 12:21 AM on May 16 [28 favorites]

It depends how mad at them you are - you could call it anything from an explanation to an excuse.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:44 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]

Yeah, these are two different things. The second is an excuse, the first is just a reason. Both are intended to let you know that you were not being intentionally slighted or disrespected. Honestly, if you, or whoever this question is about, are trying to find specific terminology for the way events that are completely beyond someone’s control that still affected you, like a delivery person arriving early and ringing the doorbell, are actually totally their fault and render their apologies bullshit, I think you would be better served in finding ways to be more tolerant and less controlling, rather than obsessing over other people’s petty infractions against you. I don’t know which side of this interaction you were on, but one person feeling like they need to apologize because an early delivery woke the other person up is not a healthy relationship or living situation.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:00 AM on May 16 [10 favorites]

thank you for responding!

i'm sorry I forgot to mention this, but i'm writing a fiction screenplay where one character has unhealthy feelings yes
posted by yaymukund at 1:28 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]

I've heard it called a "faux-pology"
posted by Samarium at 1:35 AM on May 16 [4 favorites]

To explain (a fault or an offense) in the hope of being forgiven or understood.
Explanation offered to justify or obtain forgiveness.
That which is offered as a reason for being excused; a plea offered in extenuation of a fault or irregular deportment;

posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:51 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]

I would say that a faux-pology is more "I'm sorry you got your feelings hurt even though I did nothing wrong" than an "I'm-sorry-but" or "oh no I'm sorry here are all the circumstances that caused me to fuck up" situation.

A faux-pology isn't actually sorry. The other ones are often sincere, but they list the circumstances to try and mitigate the hurt that came with the harm (i.e. I did this by accident, not out of sheer thoughtlessness or rudeness).

(whether the one who has been wronged actually wants to hear those circumstances is another thing entirely.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:28 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]

"I'm so sorry the bell woke you, but my delivery arrived 20m earlier than it said on the website." may be fair because the delivery person was early, and maybe it was a nap.

"I'm sorry I forgot to put your clothes in the dryer like I'd agreed, but I've had a stressful day." is a justification for screwing up.
posted by theora55 at 7:05 AM on May 16

I saw a screengrab from The Santa Clarita Diet that captured this in a lovely way - in every but there is an asshole
posted by tinwhiskers at 12:06 PM on May 17

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