Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I'm sorry to the 4th Degree.

That doesn't sound quite right. And it makes me thankful that the English language is nowhere near as complex and layered as Chinese. This excerpt from a recent Newsweek article breaks it all down:

Saying sorry has long been an especially fraught diplomatic exercise between China and America. Almost exactly five years ago, a Chinese fighter jet and an American reconnaissance aircraft collided over Hainan island, killing the hotshot mainland pilot. After the 24-person U.S. crew made an emergency landing on Hainan, mainland authorities detained them and Beijing demanded an apology. Diplomats worked day and night for 11 days to negotiate mutually acceptable language for an U.S. apology.

In the end, the U.S. side allowed mainland officials to use a Chinese phrase indicating the Americans were “very sorry” for not receiving prior permission to “land their aircraft.” But in its own Chinese-language version of events, the U.S. embassy used a different phrase, indicating a milder level of “sorry”.

The Chinese language has at least four intensities of “sorry”, reflecting a sliding scale of remorse and responsibility.


Could you imagine that in a relationship? I mean could you ever get away with Sorry Level 1 or 2? I know i wouldn't accept it. He'd have to be Level 4 Sorry at all times or else we're breaking up.

2 comments:

Piscean Princess said...

This is hilarious! And I'm with you - I'm certain that I would not be willing to accept any apology that ranked lower than 4. Regardless of the offense!

Nothing but the best for the princess...

Jehan said...

but what about apology deadlocks, tho'? if both parties insist on a 4, can they negotiate a settlement of a bilateral 2? does the maths work? would this not lead to people literally keeping score in relationships? would the currency of apology inevitably be devalued? would the stock market of sorriness crash?