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 -
“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.
“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!