Many Calvin English alums will remember that Prof. Vanden Bosch aspires to have the word presticogitation, which he invented, placed the Oxford English Dictionary. It is a sniglet—any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should. (The word sniglet is itself a sniglet.) This is a lofty ambition to un-sniglet a word.
I similarly desire to enrich the English language. My word is sorgy. It is pronounced just like the word sorry with a “g” sound before the “y.” Sorgy is a very useful word for situations where one wishes to (or is expected to) express sorrow but doesn’t feel sorry (and probably wishes to let that be known). (The word could also be spelled “sargy,” but Urban Dictionary spells it sorgy. I don’t know who created the entry.)
I thought that this word was simply part of my family’s vocabulary, an inside joke that we used with each other. But then my parents told me that I came up with the word for times when I was supposed to say “sorry,” but wasn’t. It was my way of navigating a middle way between the Scylla of parental disobedience and the Charybdis of willful dishonesty. Imagine the following situation.
Parent: “Robby! You may not push your little brother like that! You need to apologize to him.”
Robby (to his little brother): “I’m sorgy.”
There are many situations in which “sorgy” is a useful and appropriate response. It can be deployed playfully or sarcastically (unlike “sorry not sorry”) or
Roommate 1: I slept in your bed last night because when you were gone.
Roommate 2: Aw, the sheets always smell funny when you do that!
Roommate 1: Sorgy!
Younger sibling: There are seriously like a hundred times more baby pictures of you than the rest of us, just because you were the oldest. It’s not fair.
Older sibling: Sorgy!
Teacher to middle school students: “Hey, quit goofing off with those textbooks. Those are school property.”
Middle schoolers: “Sorgy, Ms. Boerman.”
Many people reflexively say “I’m sorry” whenever they feel they may have inconvenienced someone else. (Likewise, many people say “It’s okay” when they have been wronged and could just as easily demand an apology.) This type of apology is another way of saying “sorgy.” Perhaps they should simply use the other word.
Sorgy is different than a fauxpology, which is the type of apology that public figures are pressured to make when their misdeeds come to light. As a noun, fauxpology only denotes, and it always denotes insincerity. As an interjection, sorgy can be used more creatively, and it is sincere about the ambivalence or lack of sinceritys. And although it is probably a good thing that the public continues to demand even insincere apologies, a “sorgy” light-heartedly acknowledges the complexity of situations in which an apology can be demanded but something other than remorse is felt.
Sorgy can become a conceptual way to grapple with guilt as we toggle between our complicity in personal, planetary, and political wrongdoing.
For example, if I drove my car today instead of biking to work because it was raining, I might say, “Sorgy, people in the Maldives, Marshall Islands, and other island nations, whose home places are sinking due to rising sea levels caused by climate change.”
“Sorgy, children of the future, that we are destroying the so much of the world for the sake of living comfortably and profitably.”
“Sorgy, socially marginalized individuals, who bear the violence of a system designed to protect the security and wealth of the powerful.”
We should be sorry for these things. But we certainly don’t act or even feel sorry. We need more words for negotiating guilt and grief and the multiplicity of affects that accompany them. I’m not sure if sorgy is such a word for everyone, and it isn’t a substitute for true repentance, but it could be a way to nuance our usual responses.
I hope that you, too, might find the word sorgy useful. I encourage you to use it as much as possible and in as many situations as you please, perhaps even in print. I (and many others) use this word regularly; you should, too!
Originally from a vegetable farm in rural northwest Indiana, Rob now lives with his wife Hope in Eugene, Oregon, as he pursues a PhD in English at the University of Oregon. He teaches undergraduate writing courses and studies religion, secularization, and environment in nineteenth-century American literature. He graduated from Calvin in 2007 with a major in history of religion but returned the next year to complete the English major. “Glory be to God for dappled things—”