945: I'm Sorry

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 21:05, 19 February 2018 by (talk) (Explanation)
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I'm Sorry
You know I've always hated her.
Title text: You know I've always hated her.


The term "I'm sorry" expresses a general feeling of sorrow or grief. It can be used either as an apology (expressing sorrow for one's own actions) or of sympathy (expressing sorrow for someone else's misfortune). Both uses are normal and acceptable, but the apologetic usage is more common. Some people deliberately conflate the two uses, treating an expression of empathy as if it were an apology. This confusion is almost always feigned, as both uses of the term are well understood, and the context makes clear which was intended.

This kind of game, in which a deliberate misunderstanding of language is treated as the other person's fault seems to be a peeve of Randall's, and is dealt with in other strips [[1]].

As it says below the comic, Cueball switches his sympathetic "I'm sorry" when Megan, treats his "I'm sorry" as if it were an apology, and playfully rejects it because the mishap was not his fault. Instead of agreeing with her, Cueball says "I know what I did...", implying that he DID, in fact, burn down her mother's house, an act which she would not expect.

At the title text, "You know I've always hated her." is an explanation for burning down the house, albeit an insufficient one. It is unlikely that he actually burned her house down, but rather is simply teaching Megan a lesson not to nitpick so much.


[Megan and Cueball are standing next to each other having a conversation.]
Megan: My Mom's house burned down.
Cueball: Oh! I'm sorry!
Megan: Why? It's not your fault.
Cueball: It's nice of you to say that, but I know what I did.
[Caption below the panel:]
It annoys me when people interpret an obviously sympathetic "I'm sorry" as an apology, so I've started responding by making it one.

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That's kinda hard though, he can't be the cause of everything that ever goes wrong, can he? Davidy²²[talk] 09:03, 9 March 2013 (UTC)

Well, not directly (at least not intentionally) however chaos theory suggests that he had some contribution even if he did not realize it (or at the vary least he could have taken some actions that would have 'randomly' stopped the event.) Yuriy206 (talk) 18:21, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
And the point is that he is annoyed by people deliberately mis-interpreting his condolences as an apology. 19:24, 21 January 2014 (UTC)

Am I the only one who thinks it is that first "I'm sorry" that is weird and not the "Why? It wasn't your fault." part? I know a lot of people do it but that doesn't make it less weird. Tharkon (talk) 01:05, 14 July 2014 (UTC)

In regards to contexts such as the one portrayed in the comic, I always thought the phrase "I'm sorry" to be more accurately interpreted along the lines of "I'm sorry that X happened to you". It is a fairly commonplace expression, so I usually get a little irritated when someone responds in a fashion similar to how the person on the left in the comic responded. 03:14, 19 November 2014 (UTC) scht

Added title text by splitting a line in the explanation. Let's close this. 21:29, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

I always felt this confusion was a non-native speaker thing: in several other languages, the word "sorry" is exclusively used for excuses, and you'll need other phrases if you want to express you pity the other person. I have a habit of responding like Megan just because in my native language, that use of sorry really doesn't make shit sense and people still do it, and that habit clings on in English. Apparently native speakers also do this? 18:57, 3 July 2018 (UTC)