Thursday, August 7, 2014

Barbarians in Academia

So here is a word that just occurred to me during a conversation I had today, and that apparently doesn't quite sound as compact and fancy in English as it does in Hungarian. Because of that, feel free to appropriate it to patch up a hole in the great English linguistic quilt.

You know those people who are very good at one specific thing, and completely ignorant of everything else outside the bubble? People in academia, for example, who know their own tiny field of [research] but can't [solve a basic equation] to save their life. Or people whose knowledge of Estonian film history surpasses any competition, but have never seen a French movie.

The word we Hungarians use for those people is "szakbarbár." The best way to translate it would probably be "specialized barbarian" (as someone who has played Barbarian characters in the past, I can totally get behind this). It applies to people who like to pose as experts of a narrow field (often they really are) but they lack perspective due to their ignorance of... basically the rest of the universe. "Szak" incidentally is also our word for "major" in a higher education setting. Does that make specialized grad students "major barbarians"? You tell me...

No comments:

Post a Comment