Dear Elton John

Re: Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

I beg to differ, Mr John.

“Sorry” is often used to convey regret, grief, or sympathy. It can also be used as an apology, or as a request for repetition or clarification. Therefore, the word can be considered semantically straightforward, if rather versatile. The word comprises four simple phonemes, all of which are extremely common in English. I cannot imagine any proficient speaker struggling with these two simple syllables; indeed, you pronounce the word successfully (and may I say tunefully) during your rendition of the above song.

There are approximately one million “words” in English, about half of which are specialist or scientific terms. In addition, you have failed to consider the notorious phonology of other languages; for example the unfamiliar clicks of Xhosa, the “tones” of Chinese, and tongue-twisting Slavic consonant clusters.

If “sorry” is indeed the “hardest” word that you know, I must infer that your vocabulary is minuscule, and would strongly suggest that you expand your reading material.

Yours sincerely

Wilf Turnbull

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