I would like to talk about Japanese words which can be translated into English with many different nuances.

Let’s focus on the adjective “majime” (真面目) !

The “majime” can be translated into a wide range of English words - earnest, trustworthy, hard-working, determined, genuine, honest, geek, dependable, serious, square and so on.

Let’s look at some examples...

Generally, the “majime” indicates a personality possessed by people who are reliable, responsible, and can simply get things done without causing drama or problems for others. Thus, it’s often seen as a compliment and is equivalent to describing someone as respectable or admirable -

For example,

Kanojo wa majime na gakusei desu” (She is an earnest student.)

Kare wa majime na otto desu“ (He is a faithful husband.)

However, when “majime” is overloaded...the meaning leans towards a negative nuance like inflexibility.

For example,

“Kanojo wa oo-majime desu” (She is a dead serious person)

“Kare wa ki-majime desu” (He is a square).

You can add “oo-” and “ki-” to “majime” like “oo-majime” (大真面目)and “ki-majime” (生真面目) if you want to add emphasis!

On the contrary, Japanese English-beginners tend to remember that majime” = “serious”. So even if they say “you’re serious”, please don’t take it as a negative meaning. Probably they want to say “you’re earnest” or “you’re hard-working” as a compliment!

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