What is an apology?

What is an apology? December 2, 2014
Courtesy instapundit.com, a link to a story in USA Today, “Rams, police differ on apology story for players’ Ferguson protest“:  

St. Louis County police and the Rams are at odds Monday night over whether a team official apologized for the “hands up-don’t shoot” gesture performed by five players before Sunday’s game.  

. . .  

[St. Louis Ram’s executive vice president and chief operations officer Kevin] Demoff told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he did not apologize for the players’ actions, but that he “regretted any offense their officers may have taken.”

Now, of course, I (and others) have long griped about the “apology” formulation of “I’m sorry if anyone was offended,” which, of course, literally speaking, is indeed a non-apology, since you are not actually expressing regret for your action, but either chastizing others for being thin-skinned, or, more generously, expressing some sadness at the situation, in the same way as “I’m sorry for your loss” is not an apology but an expression of condolences, or, more generically, sympathy with the person, e.g., “I’m so sorry to hear that,” with respect to a rejection letter for a job or a college.

But I’d always figured that the speaker did intend this sort of statement to be an apology, modeled off other public apologies he/she has heard, and was meant to be synonomous with “I apologize to those who were offended.”

Apparently not.

Can we now ask our journalists, who have access to these public figures, to press them, when they make these statements:  “Are you apologizing for your actions, or on behalf of those you represent, or are you just expressing regret?”

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