In my continuing chronicle of things that Nigerians say that strike me funny or different I want to talk about saying sorry. In the US we generally only say sorry if we did something to cause trouble, pain, etc. in someone's life. But here in Nigeria you say sorry for just about anything and everything that is less than hunky dory. And it's not just "sorry" it's "Oh! Sorry-o!" In Nigeria the adding of "-o" on many, many words is both a sign of sincerity and also a little bit of Pidgin English flair. This phrase is so common that I find myself doing and saying it non-stop like everyone else. The other day I was talking to Ange online and she said she was tired. My automatic response was "Sorry." And she was of course perplexed so I had to explain this whole thing to her. Here are some more examples for when sorry is appropriate:
Someone drops a pen? Oh! Sorry-0!
You say you had a bad night's sleep? Oh! Sorry-o!
You trip and almost fall all because you are clumsy? Oh! Sorry-o!
I hear this phrase at least once every day. Probably more. And it seems to have completely infiltrated my thought processes (as noted to the conversation above with Ange). But really, I don't mind. When I said sorry to Ange she told me not to say sorry unless I really meant it. Which of course I actually did. I was sorry that she was tired, because that is unfortunate especially given it was the middle of the day and I knew she had a lot more to do that day. It might be a different kind of sorry, but that's ok with me. I can still be empathetic-ally sorry for misfortunes in another person's life. I'd rather everyone be feeling well and spry and ready to take on the world. And if you are less than that, I may just say "Oh! Sorry-o!" Ok, well maybe I'll keep the "Sorry" part and drop the "Oh!" and "-o" parts. I don't want to totally confuse everyone!