Iima, a word hunter, talks about the “expression of a bewildering politician”: “I should reflect on what I should reflect on,” “If I have misled you,” and so on. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Iima, a word hunter, talks about the “expression of a bewildering politician”: “I should reflect on what I should reflect on,” “If I have misled you,” and so on.

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Since when and how on earth have they been used?

Many of us have probably been bothered whenever we hear politicians say, “I regret what should be regretted,” or “If I have misled you,” etc. “I don’t know if there is anything that should be regretted, but if there was, I would have been very disappointed.

The phrase “should reflect on what needs to be reflected on,” sounds like a recognition that “I don’t know if there is anything to reflect on, but if there was,” is about the same as “I don’t know if there is anything to reflect on, but if there was…. In the case of “If I have misled you,” it is a “misunderstanding” rather than the truth, and even though it is possible that the wording was not appropriate, it sounds as if the problem lies with the one who “misunderstood” the situation.

How and when did these words, which politicians today tend to use as an escape, come into use? We asked Hiroaki Iima, editor of a Japanese-language dictionary and editorial board member of the Sanseido Dictionary of the Japanese Language, to explain, based on his research of the minutes of Diet sessions.

We often hear Prime Minister Kishida say in his Diet speeches, “I should reflect on what I should reflect on,” and “If I have misled you, I will…

“I should reflect on what I should reflect on”: Decreased during the second Abe cabinet, then increased again during the Kan and Kishida prime ministerial administrations.

First of all, “反省すべきは反省し” first appeared in the minutes of the Diet session in 1948. There are a total of three instances of the same kind of phrase, such as ‘Reflect on what should be reflected on,’ ‘Reflect on what should be reflected on,’ and so on. Thereafter, the number of such phrases increased and reached a peak in the ’70s.

In the 1970s, for example, the phrase is often used in the years 1973 and 1974: 1973 was the year of the oil crisis, and 1974 was the year of Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka’s money-linkage problem, which led to the resignation of Tanaka’s cabinet in December of that year. Prime Minister Tanaka himself stated in a speech on January 24, 1974, “I have reflected on what I should have reflected on, and I will change what I should have changed.

The number of oil shocks decreased for a while after that, but began to increase again in the 1990s. The most notable year was 1995, the year of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. Immediately after the earthquake, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama repeatedly used phrases such as “We must humbly reflect on what we should reflect on in light of the experience of this disaster relief mission” (January 24, 1995). The Minister of Finance has often used the same phrase in reference to the situation after the bursting of the bubble economy, and it seems to have become a habit of his.

Surprisingly, however, he seems to have calmed down recently.

There were many years when there were more than 20 cases of “I should reflect on the situation,” but the number has been decreasing again since around 2001. Just around the second The second Shinzo Abe cabinet was inaugurated. In 2004, when the Security Law came into effect, the number was particularly low, with only two cases appearing in the questioner’s remarks.

Although it is impossible to judge only by the frequency of the phrases, it appears that the Abe Cabinet did not “reflect on what needs to be reflected on” during this period. Has the Abe administration stopped fudging the “reflect on what needs to be reflected on,” or was it a period of reopening the door to “there is nothing to reflect on”?

On the other hand, in the era of Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, there is again a slight increase in the kind of “should be reflected upon.

I’ll leave it to your interpretation, but in any case, it means that the “should reflect on” kind of expression was not born yesterday or today. At least as far as the Diet proceedings are concerned, it was already in use after the war, and especially from the end of the 20th century to the present century, it is a word that has come into common use.

It may be said that there have been more and more occasions when people want to show that much remorseful pose. If you are asked, “Are you sorry?” the answer should be either “Yes,” or “No,” but if you use the hypothetical form, “If you should be sorry,” you don’t have to say whether you are or are not sorry. People must have realized this and came to love it.”

The use of the phrase “should be sorry” became less common around 2001, when the second Shinzo Abe cabinet was formed. Was the Abe Cabinet an era of “openness” that did not “reflect on what needs to be reflected on”? (Graph courtesy of Hiroaki Iima)

If I have misled you” => “You have misled me.”

One more thing: “If I have misled you” is said to be surprisingly infrequent in the Diet Proceedings (except for other phrases such as “If I have misled you” or “If I have misled you”).

The first time it appears is in 1954, and the next in 1965. For a while after the war, the hypothetical forms ‘if I misled you’ and ‘if I misled you’ were not used very often.

However, this too became prominent from the 1970s.

In the past, there were many years when there were no examples of its use, but in the ’70s, there were four examples of its use. In 1994 and 2011, there were five cases, which is particularly conspicuous. ’11 was the year of the Great East Japan Earthquake. There are also several instances in which “If I have misled you” is used as an explanation for statements made regarding the earthquake and the nuclear power plant accident.

After all, this is also a phrase that has become common in the Diet proceedings from the end of the 20th century to the present century.

Based on these trends, Mr. Iima offers the following analysis.

Both ‘I will reflect on what I should reflect on’ and ‘If I have caused a misunderstanding’ are in the subjunctive, as if to say, ‘If there is something to reflect on,’ or ‘It was your misunderstanding that caused the misunderstanding.

In the eighth edition of the Sanseido Japanese Dictionary, the following commentary is added to the “Misunderstanding” section. The eighth edition of the Sanseido Japanese Dictionary adds this explanation: “The apology, ‘I apologize for the misunderstanding that my statement caused,’ can also be used as an expression of responsibility: ‘It was you who misunderstood. Correcting the statement conveys sincerity].

Also, ‘I should be sorry for what I said’ is not yet in the dictionary, but it might be shown as an example of a common phrase.

Another conveniently used phrase is ‘I am truly sorry for the trouble I have caused you. It is a word of apology, but it is accompanied by a light feeling that you have caused a commotion around you due to an internal problem. It sounds bizarre when used in cases where serious damage has been done to society. It doesn’t give the impression of sincerity to apologize only for causing a public uproar without mentioning the substance of the problem.”

If I have misled you,” became prominent from the 1970s (graph courtesy of Hiroaki Iima)

Good coping”: Unclear what exactly he wants to do…

There are more words that Mr. Iima focuses on in his “History of Excuses. They are “we will take good care of it” and “we will positively consider it.

The phrase ‘we will take good care of it’ is also used to mean that we will not do it positively,” he said. For example, there is a story that in December 1969, when Prime Minister Eisaku Sato was asked by President Nixon at the Japan-U.S. textile negotiations about textile export controls, he said, “I will take good care of it. For Prime Minister Sato, the expression was ambiguous, limited to ‘well, if possible,’ but when translated into English, it was made to mean ‘I will try to meet your expectations,’ which was positive, and the U.S. became more aggressive. It is not officially recorded, but is spoken of as hearsay information.

There is also a comment by Tokuro Irie, a columnist for the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, about “Zensho. The cliché of the government office is: ‘We have not received a report yet. If it is true, it is a big problem. If it is true, it will be a big problem. I will check it out immediately and do my best to deal with it. This was often quoted later.

In fact, the word “zenpatsu” itself seems to have appeared before the Edo period, but it was not until the Taisho period (1912-1926) that it came into wide use.

In 1924, Prime Minister Takaaki Kato addressed the House of Representatives and stated in ambiguous terms that he would “make every effort to deal with the problem of reforming the House of Peers. It was unclear what exactly he wanted to do, and he was criticized quite a bit.

The use of this phrase by Prime Minister Kato triggered the rapid spread of “zenpatsu”. People learned that they could cheat by saying, “I will take good care of it,” instead of “I will do it” or “I will not do it. This has continued to the present day.

Takaaki Kato served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and became the 24th Prime Minister of Japan in 1924. Prime Minister Kato’s use of the phrase triggered the rapid spread of ‘zenpatsu,'” Iima said.

In addition, “positive consideration” first appeared in the Diet Proceedings in the early 1960s. Since then, the number of cases has generally increased every year, and by the 1970s, there were more than 200 cases a year,” he said.

In the 1970s, the number of cases exceeded 200 a year. It was overused in the 1970s and was criticized for being ambiguous, so people began to cut back a little on the use of the term.

The Sanseido Kokusai Jiten (Dictionary of Japanese Language and Literature) also includes an example sentence, “Positive consideration” in the “Positive” section, with the explanation that it is “often used by politicians and officials in their evasive speeches.

Why do politicians continue to use these words despite criticism?

Why do politicians continue to use “If I have misled you” and “I should reflect on what I have done” when both of these phrases have been criticized extensively on social networking sites?

They are probably comparing the disadvantages of being criticized with the advantages of being able to obscure responsibility. Politicians who can use such phrases as ‘I should reflect on what I should reflect on’ are smart people, so it is impossible for them not to consider the possibility of being criticized.

Saying frankly, “I made an error in judgment on this point,” gives a refreshing impression, but at the same time, you will be held accountable. They may not want to do that, so they may use ambiguous expressions, even if they may receive some criticism.

People have accumulated successful experiences of being able to get away with using ambiguous expressions, so they are now using these expressions with great appreciation.

In fact, there are many politicians who say, “If you apologize, you lose. In fact, there are many politicians who believe that “if you apologize, you will lose.” In the current Diet session, there are politicians who are moving the goalposts endlessly in order to shift the discussion point, and on the Internet, there are expressions such as “if you apologize, you will die” about those who will never apologize.

While saying that such “ambiguous expressions of apology” may only increase in the future, Mr. Iima concluded his talk with this suggestion: “If a person apologizes clearly, he or she should be given a higher evaluation.

I think we should give more credit to those who apologize clearly,” he said. People who can analyze themselves and say, ‘I did well up to this point, but I made a mistake on this point,’ and then apologize, can be said to be taking responsibility for their words and actions. In this respect, they are trustworthy.

If you evaluate apologies only negatively, you will say, ‘That politician apologized. So I’m going to drag him down. Of course, responsibility should be taken for the wrong part, but on top of that, it is necessary for society to evaluate the apology in a positive way. If there is a social consensus that ‘a clear apology is rather trustworthy,’ more people will make the decision to apologize.

Looking at world history, Germany has gained a certain level of trust in the international community by apologizing for its mistakes during the Nazi era. I believe that if we can create a society that appreciates and respects the fact that ‘that person clearly apologized at that time,’ not only in the international community but also in groups close to us, there will be fewer people who run away with ambiguous words.

Hiroaki Iima, editor of a Japanese-language dictionary, was born in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, in 1967. Born in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture in 1967, he graduated from Waseda University’s Faculty of Letters I and earned his Ph. D. from Waseda University. He is a member of the editorial board of the Sanseido Dictionary of the Japanese Language. Author of “Compiling a Dictionary” (Kobunsha Shinsho), “Catch More Japanese! (illustrated by Maki Kanai, Mainichi Newspaper Publishing) and “Nihongo wa kowakunai” (Japanese is not scary) (PHP).

  • Interview and text by Wakako Tago

    Born in 1973. After working for a publishing company and an advertising production company, became a freelance writer. In addition to interviewing actors and others for weekly and monthly magazines, she writes columns on drama for various media. His main publications include "All Important Things Are Taught by Morning Drama" (Ota Publishing), "KinKi Kids Owarinaki Michi" and "Hey! Say! JUMP 9 Tobira ga Open Tokimono" (both published by Earl's Publishing).

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