How many words does English have? Depending on your source, you get different numbers, so let’s just go with “lots.” Yet, despite this, there are some situations that call for new words.
A few years back, it dawned on me that there’s no English word to describe your relationship with your child’s in-laws. I mentioned that in passing in this piece, noting that both Yiddish and Spanish (languages that I have a smidgen or less of knowledge about) have such a word. Before I started writing this, I found this piece from Slate that discusses that same thing, better, and a few other areas where English is deficient. So, read that–after finishing this, of course.
Let’s say you are sitting down with a friend, having coffee. The conversation gets animated, and you knock over your coffee cup, drenching your friend’s shirt with scalding brown liquid. Of course, while grabbing napkins, you say to your friend, “I’m sorry.” And your friend, while really pissed off, is likely to respond,”That’s OK,” or something like that. You respond, “Yeah, I’ve really been out of it since my father died.” And your friend replies, “Oh, I didn’t know. I’m sorry.” Your response is likely to be something like, “Thanks, it’s not your fault.” Which is probably true.
My point is that we need a different word to mean “Sorry, I did a stupid thing and am seeking forgiveness,” or what I’ll call an “apologetic sorry,” as opposed to “I’m sorry that something bad happened to you, without any fault on my part,” or what I’ll call a “sympathetic sorry.”
To a few friends and family members, I floated this thought–keep using “sorry” for the apologetic situation, and use my new word, “snorry” for the sympathetic version.
What do you think? Can we make it go viral?
Probably not. Shakespeare is credited with creating more than 1700 English words. But if there is one thing clear about my writing, I’m no Shakespeare.
Can you think of any other situations where the English language lacks a certain je ne sais quoi? Does that give you schadenfreude? We could discuss it over hors d’oeuvres. Or is creating new words just so much chutzpah?
Our featured song is “So. Central Rain,” by R.E.M. If you don’t know why, I’m snorry.