I've been trying to avoid becoming obsessed with the sentence "Mistakes were made." It's such an easy target, the passive voice, and all day columnists and bloggers have been hammering Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for using it. Bad, bad, bad Alberto!
We've become accustomed to hearing public figures, politicians especially, "apologize" without admitting anything. Bill Clinton probably wished later that he'd stuck with mistakes were made rather than uttering his famous denial of not having "sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky." See what happens when you slip into the active voice?
As indignant as I am when someone owes me an apology and just won't give it, I have to admit that at times I have avoided reeeeally taking responsibility myself. In the interest of honesty and personal growth, I would like to make amends. I intend to demonstrate that I can indeed take responsibility, even when employing the passive voice. Here goes:
Mistakes were made on my Trigonometry final exam in 1968. Lots of them, and probably by me, since it was my grade that dropped from a B to a D.
Mistakes were made when a kitten was smuggled into our no-pets-allowed university housing. Yeah, okay, I made the mistake when I smuggled the kitten. Also, my husband was the apartment manager. He worked for the university. Awkward.
Mistakes were made when I tried to speak German to Germans in Germany 1987-1990. I must be talking about me, because the Germans seemed to speak pretty good German.
Mistakes were made by not getting a flu shot this season. My mistake, my flu.
See what I mean? It's not so hard. Give it a try, Alberto.