“Is it me, me…” these words uttered by my colleague stung.
Yes, I think I can be quite self-absorbed, perhaps as a result of receiving a lot of attention in my infancy as a first born child and a first born grandchild on both sides of my family. I’d like to think that I am also interested in other people, things, and surroundings.
As a former scientist, I try to find the reasons behind an observation.
English is a subject prominent language. Japanese is not. An English sentence without a subject feels lopsided, while in Japanese, the subject can be done away if it is obvious within context, or previously established. It is a topic prominent language. Japanese doesn’t propagate gender in the adjectives, so not having a subject in Japanese is really about paying attention to whom the sentence refers.
Going to a French speaking country was a shocker, with the tonic “moi, je fais blah blah blah, et moi, je pense blah blah blah”. Directly translated, this reads “me, I did blah blah blah, and me, I think blah blah blah”.
Indeed it is me, me, me…
So is it all about being lost in literal translation?
Aside from a grammatically non-conversant non-linguist observations on these languages, indirectly or directly, my hunch is that this is also a side effect of being effaced or feeling the need to exert myself to obtain recognition over the years.
This is either from the experience in the US, where self-promotion is just a part of American culture and self-effacement (also rooted in the language) that is considered a social virtue in Japan was not very useful;
or the phenomenon where people talk over eachother, or the one now called mansplaining;
or both in my case, from all these years in academia.
Like when I was invited, and decided to invite a peer to share an opportunity to speak, I spoke first, and the questions were only directed to the second speaker. When I brought up the discomfort I’d felt, the response was a learning experience: people who speak last get the questions. I had never thought of that. There was no sorry for not sharing the stage.
Is this a new(-ishly defined) disorder of sorts?
I am definitely not good at making meaningful abbreviations or coining new words, but there must be someone out there who can come up with a catchy combo that captures this learned behaviour that needs unlearning.
The conclusion is, that I think of this as a post-academic phenomenon is a good sign. So far, I apparently don’t feel effaced. So far, so good.