Age: As old as human error.
Sorry? You mean the word? Yes, the word. That’s the only possible thing I could mean.
All right, sorry. Don’t apologise. Not if you want to be taken seriously. There’s an app for it.
An app for apologising? No, an app for not apologising. Or, rather, a new optional plug-in for Gmail that alerts you whenever you use apologetic or qualifying words such as “sorry” or “just”. It’s called Just Not Sorry and underlines the words in red as if they are typos.
Right. Sorry to be thick, but why? Because they are thought to undermine your authority. It’s being marketed as a way for women to communicate like men in the workplace.
Do they need that? There is a sense – and patchy formal linguistic evidence – that women use more circumlocutions, self-negating words and diffident phrasings in speech and writing that can lead others to misperceive what is being asked or required of them.
But what if you are sorry about something? Then you may ignore the red underline.
Can women do that? I thought they were great rule followers as well? Just so funny. Well done.
OK then – how about: what if suddenly leaping eight rungs up the authoritarian ladder induces more hostility than respect? How so?
Well, language is a delicate dance, innit? You can’t just suddenly start talking or writing like something you’re not. People pull away. Then that’s very sexist of them.
Maybe, but you can’t force them to change. At least, not without putting yourself at a massive personal disadvantage in the meantime. You mean, adopting the commanding tones of a military officer when you have hitherto been known as a mousy secretary may make a valuable wider point but end up doing you more harm than good?
Exactly. I see. Well, you could always install the plug-in but perhaps consider it an advisory service rather than a dictator.
Right. More Microsoft Word paper clip than Académie française. It’s a slow business, this feminism lark, isn’t it?
It is, I’m afraid, yes. Sorry. Just stop.
Do say: “What if you misspell ‘just’ and ‘sorry’ as well?”
Don’t say: “Double underlines, maybe? We didn’t really plan for that, sorry.”
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