Monday, March 4, 2019

まあまあ, maa maa - Meaning in Japanese

In Japanese, maa maa まあまあ, also spelled maa maaまぁ, maa maaまー, is, literally, the word maa まあ twice. So, as you might guess, maa maa is twice as maa as just one maa.

Besides having double maa-ness in it, maa maa is also used in ways maa isn't used, like to say something is "neither good nor bad," or to tell people to "calm down."

Not to be confused with mama まま, "the way it is," or mama ママ, a word for "mother" in Japanese.

An example of まあまあ in Japanese.
Manga: Fullmetal Alchemist, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi 鋼の錬金術師 (Chapter 4)

Calm Down

One way maa maa まぁまぁ is used is to deescalate the situation. When people start arguing, and getting angry, and start fighting, and so on, maa maa can be used to recommend that they calm down.
  • maa maa sou iu na
    まあまあそう言うな
    Now, now, don't say [stuff] like that.
    • You're too mad, man. Calm down.
    • na
      Don't. (negative imperative, used after verbs.)

Note that this is a function that just one maa まぁ alone also has, but with more intense arguments you need more intense maa's.

まあまあ二人とも落ちついて quote from manga Fullmetal Alchemist, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi 鋼の錬金術師 (Chapter 4)
Manga: Fullmetal Alchemist, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi 鋼の錬金術師 (Chapter 4)
  • Context: little brother saves gunman from imminent death armor dude stops a fight.
  • maa maa まあまあ
    (interjection before recommending something.)
  • futari tomo 二人とも
    [You] two.
  • ochi-tsuite 落ちついて
    Calm down. (recommendation.)

"Neither Good nor Bad"

The word maa maa まぁまぁ can be used to say something is or was "neither good nor bad," that it is "so-so." That it's honestly pretty mediocre, but passable nonetheless.
  • dou deshita ka?
    maa-maa deshita

    どうでしたか?
    まあまあでした
    How was it?
    It was so-so. (it was neither good nor bad.)
  • maa-maa tte toko da ne
    まあまあってとこだね
    It's just barely enough, don't you agree?
    • It's passable, but almost isn't.
    • tte って
      Makes maa-maa, "so-so," qualify the toko.
      The toko could be said to be maamaa. (literally.)
    • toko とこ
      tokoro ところ
      Place. Spot. (nominalizer.)
    • It's in a "so-so spot." A "spot you could call so-so." That is, it's not in a good spot or a bad spot, it's just about enough. Note that "spot" isn't a physical, geographical place here, but refers to the state in which something is. (so-so.)

まぁ Twice

In a lot of cases, maa maa まぁまぁ is a lot more than the word maa まぁ twice. An intensified version of maa. The word maa まぁ has various uses. It can be an interjection. It can be an adverb. It can mean "well," it can mean "I guess." So make sure to check the article on maa まぁ later, too.

あらあらまあまあ quote from webcomic Bocchan to Meido 坊ちゃんとメイド (Chapter 1)
Webcomic: Bocchan to Meido 坊ちゃんとメイド (Chapter 1)
  • ara ara
    maa maa

    あらあらまあまあ
    • Literally ara twice plus maa twice.
    • Doesn't really mean anything
    • Just a very long interjection.
    • Used by ojousama お嬢様 a lot.
    • ara あら
      "Oh?" (interjection.)
      Used when surprised at something.
    • maa まあ
      "Well." (also interjection.)
      Used when taking a good look at something unexpected.
    • So it is, as you can see, an interjection used when taking a good look (because it's entertaining, comforting, wonderful, etc.) at some unexpected thing that just happened (like something that someone just did or said).

まぁまぁ遠慮せずに食べなさいよ quote from manga Gintama 銀魂 (Chapter 43)
Manga: Gintama 銀魂 (Chapter 43)
  • Context: Hijikata invites someone to a restaurant, to talk about something.
  • maa maa まぁまぁ
    For starters.
    • Used when offering someone something before talking, etc.
  • enryo sezu ni tabenasai yo
    遠慮せずに食べなさいよ
    Eat without reservation. (imperative.)
    • i.e. don't mind me, just go ahead and eat.

References

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