• Philip Nino Tan-Gatue

What is “Maarte” in English?

Disclaimer: this is a republication of a blog entry I wrote in 2014 under a different (and retired) domain name and blog.

It all started with a simple conversation with Kathy (visit her blog at http://www.lifeiskulayful.com). I had commented on her being frivolous. She replied that:

Frivolous is “maarte”.

To which I replied, quoting dictionary.com:

not having any serious purpose or value. “rules to stop frivolous lawsuits” synonyms: flippant, glib, facetious, joking, jokey, lighthearted; More fatuous, inane, senseless, thoughtless; informalflip “frivolous remarks” time-wasting, pointless, trivial, trifling, minor, petty, insignificant, unimportant; de minimis “new rules to stop frivolous lawsuits” antonyms: serious, important (of a person) carefree and not serious. synonyms: skittish, flighty, giddy, silly, foolish, superficial, shallow, irresponsible, thoughtless, featherbrained, empty-headed, pea-brained, birdbrained, vacuous, vapid; More informaldizzy, dippy, ditzy, flaky “a frivolous girl” antonyms: sensible, serious Origin late Middle English: from Latin frivolus ‘silly, trifling’ + -ous. Translate frivolous to Use over time for: frivolous

How to translate maarte into English?

Here is a list of the significant replies:

  1. “pretentious, superficial”

  2. “overacting”

  3. “flamboyant”

  4. “persnickety” (this got the most likes)

  5. “a combination of flaky and nitpicky”

  6. “frivolous” (yeah, someone else commented this)

  7. “artsy-fartsy”

  8. “vain”

  9. “capricious”

  10. “fussy”

  11. “drama queen”

  12. “high maintenance”

My vote goes to:

screencap from dictionary.com

The truth is that we have to realize one very very important aspect of linguistics: that there are many instances where words can simply NOT be translated using a single equivalent word from another language. In Chinese Medicine, Qi comes to mind. Depending on the context, Qi can mean air, physiologic process, energy to drive the process, etc.

So what does “maarte” mean?

Literally the word arte comes from the word art, but with a slightly negative connotation. The Filipino word for art (culture) is sining. “Art” in “arte” probably means the fanciness or attention to detail. The prefix “ma” turns the noun into an adjective.

I personally think that the translations given can be divided into three types:

First is the type where the “arte” refers to the effort in understanding the person – the “high maintenance” category. Under this type would fall “flaky”, “drama queen”, “capricious”, and the like. The “maarte” person may not necessarily actually be fussy, but may display behavioral tendencies considered unpleasant and requiring a greater degree of tolerance by others. Usually such behavioral tendencies are of the narcissistic nature, apparently filling a need to have attention given to them. Kinda like me.

Second is when a person is “maarte” in the sense that the person has such a boisterous personality that what is considered “normal” isn’t enough. This may not necessarily be irritating to others, and may in fact be a source of good natured fun for the “maarte” person’s friends. Translations that fall under this would include “flamboyant” and “pretentious”. Whole episodes of the sitcom “Frasier” (1993-2004) are dedicated to the flamboyance and pretentiousness of the siblings Frasier and Niles Crane. Which brings us to the last type…

Niles Crane wiping the surface of a Cafe Nervosa seat before sitting. From the TV show “Frasier” (1993-2004)

Third is ludicrous attention to detail. In this category falls “nitpicky”, and “persnickety”. One quote from the aforementioned Frasier sums it all up:

“Yes, but think of it this way, Niles: what is the one thing better than an exquisite meal? An exquisite meal with one tiny flaw we can pick at all night.”Frasier Crane, season 2 episode 13, “Retirement is Murder” written by Elias David and David Pollock

The attention to detail may be culinary, hygienic or technical. The point is that the attention to detail is seen to be greater than what is normally considered necessary. What do you think about the definitions of “maarte”? Comments below please!

#etymology #frasier #persnickety

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