Minor British Institutions: Saying sorry

The British say sorry a lot: if we make a mistake, if we tread on somebody's toes, if someone treads on our toes, if we've broken something, including someone's heart, if we didn't quite hear something, if we've heard something but couldn't quite believe it, if our ancestors have wiped out large numbers of other ancestors, if we're closing: a recent estimate put it at eight times a day for each Briton, which works out at 2,920 times a year, or 233,600 times in the average life.

A more interesting survey would reveal how many times we mean it. And it's ever increasing: our growing numbers mean more bumping, crashing, failing to understand and foisting and fobbing off. Politicians and corporations now regard it as a way of connecting, excusing and expunging rather than a sign of weakness. Trains do it, buses do it, even weather forecasters, footballers, roadworks and celebrities do it. I'm sorry, there's just too much of it.