Saturday, December 26, 2009

Good Characters, Inc. (oh, the irony) has launched a new application for Apple iPhones called "Chinese Alphabet".


The application uses a set of random Chinese characters to correspond with 26 letters in English alphabet. The company claims this will "add mystery to your writing".

At least they are smart enough to put up this disclaimer at bottom of the page:

"The translation provided by Chinese Alphabet is intended for personal use and entertainment only. Not recommended for tattoo artists to use this to tattoo their clients, iPhone app developers to localize Chinese apps, CIA agents to communicate national secrets, or security professionals to encrypt passwords."

Sunday, December 13, 2009


At firs, it looks like pure gibberish - mixed Japanese and Chinese characters:

厉 カ ネ 羊

But looking more carefully, perhaps the idiot started with these characters:

But then he decided to switch from horizontal to vertical writing, and then split up the characters at the wrong places, making two characters into four.


By the way, what does mean anyway?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

from: Herouth M.
date: Mon, Nov 30, 2009 at 1:43 AM
subject: [Fwd: Emailing: P1230294.JPG]

Hi. I'm from Israel. Love your blog.

The story goes like this: I study Japanese for several years now, and I can read about 1400 kanji more or less. One day, my co-worker approaches me with his cellphone. "Can you tell me what this says?" he asks me, showing me a photo of a piece of fabric carrying the kanji 私変態. I take a look, and reply "It's not grammatical, but it basically says "I'm a pervert".


"'I'm a pervert'. The first character means 'I', the other two mean 'pervert'", where did you get that from, anyway?

"It's on my 1.5 years old daughter's shirt!"

After LOLing for about 15 minutes straight, I kind of demanded that he get me a photo of the complete shirt so I can send it to Hanzi Smatter. And here is the shirt, complete with the cute, luckless 1.5 years old "hentai" herself.

I mean, yes, I have seen intentionally-made "hentai" shirts around the web (and on Hanzi Smatter). Adults buy them and wear them for the laughs. But who in his right mind would put this on a toddler's shirt, and sell it in a children's clothing store rather than a joke shop? I can't imagine.

Yes, I suppose it *could* mean "metamorphosis", but really, outside scientific contexts, it's almost always means "pervert". Or am I wrong?



Cute kid, though. The "bunny" or whatever kind of cute animal that is also on the shirt is a nice touch. We have obviously uncovered a diabolical plot to "pervert" innocent youth with inappropriate hanzi!

By the way, the T-shirt would be cuter and better if it was grammatically correct, like:

私、変態なんです。[I ... am a pervert.]
私、変態かも…[I might be a pervert...]
As it is, it sounds more like Tarzan-speak: "me - pervert." You kind of expect "you - Jane" next.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Remember Kinoki, the detox footpad, turned out to be a ripoff?

Alan and I present you, Osuke nutritional supplement:


For those who are interested, the product's laughable claims are detailed at its website.

However, we would like to point the readers to the five characters below OSUKE:


The phrase has virtually no meaning in either Chinese or Japanese. But, using our handy-dandy Decoder Card for Gibberish English-Chinese Tattoo font, guess what 行迎友先天 corresponds?


After reading the product's name is complete gibberish, would anyone pay US$37.95 for a bottle of this supplement?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another set of Gibberish English-Chinese Font

Alan and I have discovered another set of gibberish English-Chinese font that many people are getting tattooed with. We have compiled this handy-dandy decoder card for those who want to be entertained deciphering gibberish tattoos:

Decoder Card for Gibberish English-Chinese Tattoo Font

Using decoder card, this tattoo below is "SABINA", in gibberish of course:


Update: Nov. 22, 2009 - Alan has created an updated version of Decoder Card:


Thursday, November 5, 2009

In last night's episode of CSI NY titled "It Happened to Me", there was one scene where detectives were trying to figure out what killed their victims. At first, they thought the cause was these illegally imported insecticide chalk from China found in victim's apartment.

(Spoiler alert: No, it was not the insecticide chalk. Victim mismanaged killer's investment fund and lost all his money. Killer's wife had access to chemical from her work, and killer dumped it into victim's orange juice.)

CSI NY / Episode #123 / "It Happened to Me"

One would assume three lines of Chinese text on the packaging below "kills cockroach and ants effectively. keep away from baby and old man" are the same information in Chinese.

That is not true. Matter of fact, they are just gibberish.

If one would look closely, the first line of text and third line are identical. Last three characters in second line are repeat of first three.

So what do they mean?

Line 1 and 3 are:


精神和奠酒 loosely translates as "spirit and libation" and 酒吧 is "bar".

Line 2 is:


新鮮的肉 is "fresh meat" and 新鮮的 is "fresh".

What do "fresh meat" and "bar of spirit and libation" got to do with insecticide chalk?

Can everyone say CSI NY show prop fail?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

from: Haribo S.

date: Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 7:50 AM
subject: Submission

Hi there.

One of my friends posted this on Facebook and claims it says "william beloved son", is this accurate?
Thanks :) love the blog


This is another case of Chinese-Japanese mismatch.

威廉 is Chinese phonetic transliteration of "William", however 愛息 is translated as "love [to] rest" when read as Chinese.

While Japanese for "William" is ウィリアム and 愛息 (あいそく) is interpreted as "beloved son/cute boy".

Monday, October 12, 2009

from: Anonymous
date: Sun, Oct 11, 2009 at 10:02 PM
subject: Another "Asian font" tattoo

Hi there,

Some guy in Facebook is showing off his tattoo.

As an avid reader of your site, I know that this tattoo is his name ‘K-H-A-L-E-D’ in the ridiculous ‘Asian font’.

I thought you might like to see it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

from: trellz
date: Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 12:13 PM
subject: tatoo submission

Should say stupid American, or stupid foreign person.

Picture 140

美国人 is Chinese for "American".

However 阿呆 (or あほ) is a localize dialect for "fool, jackass" in Japan's Kansai region. Where most Japanese would use 馬鹿 as "stupid". Also, 米囯人 is Japanese for "American".

is correct Chinese for "stupid".
In the latest issue of Wired magazine, there was a piece titled "10 Best Things We'll Say to Our Grandkids".


According to the magazine, English translation for #6 is:

"English used to be the dominant language. Crazy, huh?"

Dr. Mair and I both noticed the printed Chinese is not correct.

统治语言 (dominate language), is two English phrases spliced together with an odd sense of colonialism. 官方語言 (official language) or 國際語言 (international language) would be better fitting.

疯狂 does not have the same contextual meaning as "crazy", rather "frenzied, unbridled; insane". In this case, a better phrase would be "傻不傻", or "isn't that silly?"

Perhaps this is a nod to Firefly, where mixture of Chinese Mandarin phrases were added into the show's dialogue.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

from: Victor H. Mair
date: Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 12:00 PM
subject: tattoo

Hi Tian,

Perhaps you can post this for me on HANZISMATTER.



The attached picture, sent to me by Jonathan Smith, shows a basketball player's "Chinese" tattoos. They read 康女宀 from top to bottom: KANG1 ("peace, vigor") NÜ3 ("woman") MIAN2 ("shelter, thatch"). Yet the proud owner claims that they are "my initials in Chinese, M.A.D."

Marquis Antoine Daniels

My best guess as to how this may have happened is that the basketball player approached a tattooist who was minimally literate (or illiterate) in Chinese or English (or both) and showed him / her his initials, requesting the tattooist to "write them in Chinese symbols / characters / ideographs / hieroglyphs / pictographs / whatever." The initials may have been more or less ornately written, with the result that the tattooist came up with these three HANZI as his / her best representation of what he / she was seeing. For example, if you twist around in different orientations, you can sort of see an "A" there. Ditto for the other two HANZI.




Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature
Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
University of Pennsylvania

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Peter has forward me this interesting story about a woman's tattoo experience.

"I have four Japanese symbols across my back, gleaned from a Japanese-English dictionary.


Yes, it would seem that in our haste, nobody took the semicolon from the dictionary entry out of the design and it now lives for eternity on my skin."


Peter and I are shaking our heads regarding:

She is apparently more upset that there's a semicolon attached to her tattoo than by the fact that the tattoo itself is terribly done.

According to the tattoo's owner, Naomi Dunford, "It was supposed to say 'Mother Daughter Sister Wife'. Then wife was a pain in the ass and it was supposed to say 'beauty.' Who the hell knows what it means at this point?"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

from: Amilcar C.
date: Wed, Jul 22, 2009 at 8:08 AM


Congrats for the cool blog.

A colleague has this tattoo done a couple of years ago and she was told it is suppose to mean “strength”.

Does it really mean that or anything else at all?


Amilcar C.


originated from the book of I Ching, meaning "small accumulating". Other variations include "the taming power of the small" and "small harvest". I don't see the connection between that and "strength", unless there is some kind of six degrees of Kevin Bacon I Ching I didn't know about.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

from: Kama
date: Fri, Jul 10, 2009 at 12:51 AM
subject: tattoo request

HanziSmatter site is amazing, great idea :) I love reading it. Chinese and Japanese characters looks great, but I still don't understand why people are tattooing their names in those languages, when they come from German, England or Poland, like me.

I guess they want to look cool, like my friend, who is 100% sure that he has "Julia" tattoo on his left hand.

Is he? Please, help me to translate it right (if it's not ok) because he is playing so smart, that would be a pleasure to prove him wrong ;)

Greetings from Poland,



is an acceptable phonetic Chinese translation for Julia, however all characters were done mirrored.
from: Johan
date: Tue, Jul 7, 2009 at 9:41 PM
subject: Look at this Arrivals sign from Sweden

This is from Arlanda, Stockholm's international airport. They have a lot of these signs.

In Sweden, we pride ourselves on being way better than everybody else, by the way.

Johan, Sweden


It appears manufacturer of the sign did not have correct language and fonts pack installed. Instead of displaying (arrivals), the second character showed up as a rectangular box.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Help with translation - Faith, Hope and Love!

from: Erik F.
date: Mon, Jul 13, 2009 at 9:32 AM
subject: Help with translation - Faith, Hope and Love!

Hey there!

My friend went to Turkey and got himself a tattoo in chinese or japanese. According to him it says "Faith, hope and love", but being the sceptical person I am, I thought I should send a picture to you to verify.

Does it really say that, or is this another case of "Prepaid Public Transportation Card"? (A part of me is hoping it is!)

Thanks for your time!




To one that is only familiar with Chinese or Japanese, this tattoo would be gibberish.

A quick look via Google Translator, I soon realized this is Chinese phonetic translation of Turkish, where Faith is "inanc" (伊南), Hope is "umut" (乌穆特), and Love is "ask" (阿士克).

The irony is with current situation in Xinjiang, China, were most ethnic Turks reside, Chinese and Turks are not on the best of terms.

Why would anyone stupid enough to get a Turkish phrase to be phonetically translated & tattooed in Chinese? It's like begging to be the Lucky Pierre in middle of an ethnic conflict.

Monday, June 29, 2009

from: Taija N.
date: Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 7:27 AM
subject: Tattoo


I got a tattoo few years ago, when i was young and now I think I really didn't think it through. In tattoo there is cat (looks like a rat), so I started to wonder if the mark with the cat is really real. Does it say anything, is it false?

When I took it, it had meaning for me. Now I can't even remember that word what it was supposed to meant. I've checked all the possibles I know it could be, but haven't found that mark anywhere. I know, I've might been a stupid and I really don't understand how I forget it. Maybe it was that I didn't really understand what it meant and I just trusted the man who tattooed it.

I've read too much stories about people having stupid, even insulting or meaningless tattoos, so I just want to know if mine is real.

I guess, good thing is no one japanese or Chinese haven't ever stared it or laughed:D

Thank you very much in advance. I hope you can help me. I put the picture of tattoo for you.

Taija N.


It looks like to me, what do you think?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

from: David L.
date: Sun, Jun 14, 2009 at 12:11 PM
subject: tattoo meaning

Hi, I'm called David Lopez.

I'm from Barcelona and I would like to know that it means a tattoo that I did to myself years ago.
I believe that it is Chinese and though I did it for aesthetics, now I am afraid of taking a meaning that I don't want.

My girlfriend and I would have a lot of interest to know the real meaning of my tattoo.

Thank you very much in advance. You will be of great help!


tattoo meaning

means "buy/trade", means "road, path", means "card".

賈路卡 sounds like a type of prepaid card that allows its owner to access public transportation. Typically it is called 乗車券 定期券 (short for 定期乗車券) in Japan and 月票 in China.

Some readers suggested this could be translation of "Jeanluc", but that is not correct. Jeanluc is 吉魯克.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Massachusetts is red(-faced)

Dr. Victor Mair, who wrote about the MaxPlanckForschung Cover Fiasco, points me to another piece in Language Log.


Dr. Mair says:

Reading the New Yorker on the train this morning, I was struck by the full-page ad following p. 17. When my eye drifted down the page a little, I had a bit of a shock.

I could immediately read the four Chinese characters on the arch over the entrance to Boston's Chinatown: ("All-under-Heaven Is a Commonwealth"), reading left to right. What left me disoriented is that each of the characters in the inscription was reversed. But then I realized that the entire inscription was a mirror image of what it should be. In other words, all four characters should be flipped over as a group and read from right to left.

As shown in the ad

Corrected (Note: classical Chinese is written right-to-left, hence the corrected image shows 公為下天 instead of 天下為公)

While not as embarrassing as the MaxPlanckForschung Cover Fiasco, I think that the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism might consider asking the advertising agency responsible for the New Yorker slip-up to give them a partial refund.

Update: This snafu is brought to you by Connelly Partners in Boston, MA.

Go to "our work", print, MOTT, it's the third one.

(Thanks to anonymous for the tip.)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Translation of friend's tattoo

from: James H.
date: Sun, Jun 7, 2009 at 12:31 PM
subject: Translation of friend's tattoo

My friend Trev got this tattoo several years ago and he claims it means "survive". A Japanese woman in a sandwich shop gave us some reason to doubt this when she claimed it does not translate to that but she declined to translate it for us, She did say it was "nothing bad" though. As you can imagine I'm looking forward to mocking him if it is wrong. Any idea what it says?

I forwarded this to Alan Siegrist and he had this to say:

The tattoo reads する [sonzoku suru] which means to "continue to exist."

This is not the same as the ordinary meaning of to "survive" in English which should be translated [ikinokoru], when referring to a person surviving some sort of disaster like a plane crash, or surviving to old age.

The verb する is not used to refer to people, but rather some sort of inanimate object or concept.

Perhaps might be used in the legal concept of "survivorship" so that might be how the mistake occurred.

I guess this is sort of "close but no cigar."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

For those who want to be a complete douche-bag on a Saturday or any other days, perhaps a little karate, this is the shirt for you.


Who cares what those characters mean or even if they are correct. When you got this shirt on, you are so badass, even Chuck Norris would cover his nuts.

$21.97 at Palmer Cash by Vintage Vantage.

Alan forwarded me a link to a British apparel company called Superdry.

We are certainly not experts on the subject of brandnaming, but "Superdry" automatically equates to anti-perspirant or deodorant in the world of marketing (Back us up on this, Steve!).

The phrase (しなさい) is very strange in Japanese, especially with しなさい in parentheses.

It seems like someone was told to translate “Superdry” into Japanese, but the translator could not decide whether it is supposed to be an adjective meaning “extremely dry” or a sentence meaning “dry extremely well” so they just fudged it and left the imperative form しなさい [shinasai] in parentheses, indicating their uncertainty.

It is just so random that this uncertain translation was immortalized in the logo without any subsequent editing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

from: Joseph B.
date: Wed, May 13, 2009 at 10:45 PM
subject: Does this tat really mean this?

Love your website and had to ask you.

The owner of this tat claims it says "Only god will judge me", is this true? I have heard it means something about being a slave??

Thanks for your help!!!!


Does this tat really mean this??

The top character may intended to be (large or great), however it is the wrong character, .

In Japanese, 大帝 refers to a "great emperor", which does not mean Christian God. is used when referring to the Christian God. Other words for God are (literally "the Lord") and 天主 ("the Lord in Heaven").

上帝 is used in Chinese when referring to Christian God. 真主 and 阿拉 typically used for Allah, the Islamic name for God. Funny thing is that 阿拉 means "we" or "I" in Shanghai dialect.

大帝, 玉帝, and 玉皇 are variants of 玉皇大帝, Jade Emperor, from Chinese Taoism mythology. The Goa'uld System Lord Yu from Stargate SG-1 is based on this. Ironically the production company did not cast a Chinese actor for this role, rather Vincent Crestejo.

The verb 裁く [sabaku] does mean "to judge" and [boku] is a common word that Japanese males refer to themselves, meaning "me" or "I". means "to cut" in Chinese and sometimes it is associated with tailoring. means only "servant" in Chinese.

But unfortunately, the grammar and word order of the sentence 大帝裁僕 is not proper for Japanese, so it looks sort of "Chinese" to a Japanese person. A Japanese person could possibly try to read it in 漢文 style, giving the sentence:

大帝は僕を裁く [Taitei ha boku wo sabaku.]

The character is also read "shimobe" meaning manservant, so the phrase could also mean:

"The great emperor judges the manservant"


"The great emperor's tailor"

It doesn't really mean what it is supposed to mean, in either Japanese or Chinese.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I have received several emails from readers to inform me about one webisode from NBC's The Office.


In the video, Andy Bernard made an announcement that claimed his tattoo is "nard dog".

Although it is not exactly "nard dog", "n " (n dog) is close enough.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Alan and I are very curious about this Madsteel woman's tattoos:

We have no idea what those six characters across the top of her back mean.

The same person also posted many of her photos in, like this one:

What does 喜 and 壽 have to do with Madsteel?

The most interesting ones are on her feet:

I don't think 鉄狂 has any significance in Chinese. (If she had 鉄拳 from the video game Tekken tattooed on her hands, that would be awesome.)

Alan's guess is that it could be "railway fan" or "railway maniac" in Japanese. Railway workers call them "foamers" (those guys that know the names and car types of every single piece of railcar traveling over the rails and Details magazine recently had an article about these railway fans.)

Remember the movie Trainspotting? In Japanese, railway is 鉄道 and 狂い is a common suffix for a maniacal fan of something, so 鉄道狂い could be shortened to 鉄狂.

Judging from the name of the poster, we guess her feet tattoo are supposed to be a sort of
translation of "Madsteel" but if so, shouldn't it be in the order 狂鉄? Notice this young lady has the same two characters tattooed on both feet, but in opposite order.

Also, is only iron and steel should be .

Interestingly enough, there is a Japanese punk song by バミューダ バガボンド (Bermuda Vagabond) with the same title.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In April 22nd's episode of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, they have an obviously edit an image of Karl Rove's body with tattoos. Approximately 7' 30" into the show, Jon points out one tattoo, "the Chinese symbol for tenacity", but it is in fact the traditional character for love - .

This is not the first time TDS made fun of members of the GOP. Previous butt of their joke was Condi Rice.

PS. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a parody show made by Comedy Central. I don't want to have more humorless dimwits like this one and this one email in to tell me Karl Rove or Condi Rice does not have any tattoos.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Alan and I are confused by this tattoo. We are not sure if it is correct or not, simply because we have never seen this idiom.

From the last three characters, we can sort of guessing this person wanted "death before dishonor". However, Chinese idiom for it would be:


凌辱 is used in both Chinese & Japanese to mean an insult, indignity, disgrace or violation, even to assault a woman. So we can sort of see how might imply "dishonor" and 不屈 does mean "fortitude" or "indomitable".

But we simply do not understand the grammar or syntax of 凌死不屈, since could also mean "pure; virtuous; insult; maltreat, encroach; soar; thick ice".

It simply sounds like the words "dishonor" "death" and "indomitable" run together.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another winner from with caption stating the three characters are his girlfriend's initials.

Apparently this man did not receive the memo about there is no such thing as "Chinese initials for English names".


Beyond that, we have no clue what exactly the initials are supposedly to be.

Update: Reader Becki and others have noticed the initials may be "LBP" (somehow it reminds me of O. P. P. aka. Other People's Pussy by Naughty By Nature) written in a font that mimics pseudo-Chinese, i.e. The Choy Suey Font.

By the way, chop suey is not an authentic Chinese dish, rather according to legend it is from table scraps.

Chop Fooey
Mental Floss magazine, May-June 2009 issue, page 19.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Alan and I spotted this "naughty" tattoo in,

However, the middle character is completely wrong.


Actually would be sufficient to be used as adjective, where is an adverb. Addition to that, the tattooed "naughty" does not have same innuendo in English. It is usually used to describe bratty children, as I would call them,

crotch sneeze fuck trophies.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

from: Roger P.
date: Mon, Mar 23, 2009 at 8:39 AM
subject: Co-worker's Tattoo

Hi there,

I was talking about your website with a co-worker of mine, in reference to one of your articles. She wanted me to find out if the tattoo she got really means what she wanted it to mean (obviously!). Here is a pic of her tattoo. She thinks it means "Bitch." What does it look like to you?



Co-worker's Tattoo

Why would anyone wanted to label themselves in such negative way?

Typically bitch as noun is translated as and 婊子 as slang.

What this woman tattooed really means "cheap whore".

Friday, April 3, 2009

Reader Alanna K. tipped Alan and I about this young lady's tattoo,

Before I got my cherry blossom branch on

Cherry Blossom on

The captions of both photo said was Chinese for "Angel", which is also her name.

If she is referring the tattoo was transliteration from Mandarin Chinese, then the correct version would be 安琪儿.

If it was English-Chinese contextual translation, then it should be 天使.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Regardless what one's option about Dan Brown, he is a well known author for his thriller fiction books. However, it seems he did not do a very thorough research before publishing Digital Fortress.

Dan Brown / Digital Fortress / Page 11

Dan Brown / Digital Fortress / Page 12

Linguaphiles in Livejournal have already pegged Dan Brown as an idiot.

Alan and I are annoyed with Dan Brown, especially considering he is interested in cryptography.

The excerpt is so painful and moronic quoting about "Mandarin symbols" and "Kanji language", where there is no such thing as "Mandarin symbols" or "Kanji language". Mandarin is a spoken oral dialect, and Kanji is part of Japanese writing system.

Alan also had this to say:

Apparently Dan Brown is just as ignorant as those tattoo yahoos. He thinks you can just "translate symbols" and have it make sense. Any code based on the translation of single characters from Chinese or Japanese to English, and then subjecting this to subsequent processing is bound to fail because of multiple meanings. (Sorry, Dan, but just picking the "Kanji" rather than the "Mandarin" meanings does not solve the problem.) Simply sending a coded message that included plaintext Chinese or Japanese would be such a stupid code because any translator could intercept and read it. And the topper is the assumption that someone could possibly translate something written in Chinese or Japanese out of sequence. Try to read any English text scrambled out of order! If it is to be possibly deciphered, first the message has to be put into proper order.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

date: Tue, Mar 17, 2009 at 12:09 AM
subject: kanji paranoia

Hi! I got this tattoo a little over a year ago. It's supposed to mean "pure child", as I am a Christian. My tattoo artist is very careful and we even referenced a Japanese children's workbook to make sure that's what it meant.

I stumbled onto your site and now I am a little paranoid. Can you set my mind at ease?

I attached a pic :)it's my boobs, hope you don't mind. it's a little blue Kanji on my left boobie.


First of all, Alan and I welcome boobies!

I have always wanted Cornershop's Brimful of Asha as one of my party anthems, especially the chorus says "everybody needs a bosom for pillow, everybody needs a bosom."

Although are technically translated as "pure" & "child". A Japanese person would surely first assume that 清子 tattooed on a woman is supposed to be the common Japanese girl's name Kiyoko. But then the cognitive dissonance would set in.

Judging from certain, er, attributes of the tattooed subject, we would have to assume that she is not ethnically Japanese, so the question arises: why does she have a Japanese name?

Anyway, as a name, 清子 can be read several different ways including, in order from most to least common: Kiyoko, Seiko, Sugako, Sayako, Sukako.

Matter of fact, most Japanese would think this is a tattoo paying homage to their former princess 黒田清子, Sayako Kuroda.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The name Ed Hardy probably does not mean much to us, unless you have stepped into high end boutique shops.

Don Ed Hardy used to be a tattooist (or still is), but in these days, he has whored out his name and artistic integrity to hawk women hand bags and other fashion garbs.

The phrase printed on this Ed Hardy handbag was intended to represent "die before dishonor", however it is gibberish in Japanese. This phrase is not even close in Chinese. It is read as "die first, insult (later)".

The printed phrase sounded more familiar to the practice of 鞭尸, a punishment where buried body is unearthed and whipped in front of his/her surviving family members, than "die before dishonor". Plus, Chinese already have an idiom, 寧死不屈.

This gets better after I received this email:

from: Rachel S.

date: Sun, Mar 1, 2009 at 6:06 PM
subject: Tattoos, do they really mean this?

Hi, a guy I went to high school posted this picture of his new tattoo on Facebook and I was wondering if they really mean what he claims them to say.

The tattoo he says it reads, "Death before dishonor."

Someone actually copied the phrase from Ed Hardy's pseudo-Japanese handbag and tattooed on himself.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I have received many emails about some idiot posting this photo in BME's tattoo gallery (Feb. 24, 2009):

The caption says:

While spending some time in Japan, I was lucky enough to get the kanji for "Dragon soul" tattooed on my arm at a studio in Tokyo. The artist helped me translate the phrase into kanji.
(Tokyo, JP)

Hmm.... but does he really think it means "Samurai" or "Dragon soul"? The story is a bit inconsistent. Or does he really know his tattoo 外人 really means "foreigner" and is he just yanking our chains?

Anyway, it's funny either way.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

If you ever wanted to know when first misuse of Chinese character ever started in Western culture, I may just have the answer for you.

from: Nam See Kim
date: Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 2:24 AM
subject: the history of misuse of chinese characters

Hello Tian,

My name is Nam-See Kim, Korean, studying in Germany.

In Cultural studies of Humboldt University Berlin I wrote my doctoral thesis about the western reception of Chinese characters since 16th century. I find your blog very interesting.

I would like to send you some images which show how long is the history of "misuse of Chinese characters in western culture".

The first Image of "Chinese characters" comes from the Book by Martino Martini, "Sinicae historiae decas prima" in 1658, page 23.

The second from the book of Bernardino de Escalante in 1577, where the so called "Chinese characters" introduced for the first time to Western world.

The third image is the most famous from "China Illustrata" by Athanasius Kircher in 1667.


Nam-See Kim