Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Dare not to Accept"


Reader Johan L. forwarded this photo to me from another site. Someone has already commented about the tattoo:

"Wow. It almost seems like this is the biggest cliche female tattoo I've seen. It's a lower back tattoo, it's got a dragon, tribal, random water splashes, roses, AND kanji! That is some sort of record."


Especially when (dare not to accept) is one of the most common courtesy phrases used in Chinese. This is equivalent of getting a tattoo that says "Thank You, Come Again" in English.

"Knife Through Loss"


This untitled submission to BMEzine.com's kanji tattoo gallery only had caption of "Tattoo done on Ian. by Tracie at MARKED FOR LIFE. Ossett. West Yorkshire."

The first character appears to be (knife). The next two means "pass through". The last two is "loss".

The faux-brush calligraphy is terrible.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

"Freedom Fighter"

An U. S. Navy recruiter from Raleigh, North Carolina, emailed me this photo and says the young recruit (tattoo's owner) claimed it meant "freedom fighter".

The closest character would even resemble the bottom one would be , which means "[to] bury".

The top two characters and only mean "he/him" and "this/thus". The bottom character means "brother's wife" or "sister-in-law".

"Freedom" usually is written as and "fighter" is .

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I got this photo along with an email from a young lady in Canada a few days ago. She said when she was 16 years old; she had her grandfather’s initials “SCK” to be tattooed in “Chinese lettering”.

Although the two lower characters and are recognizable, the first character is only a partial of (flow). The three characters do not pronounce anywhere near “S”, “C”, “K”.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Republic of Tea

Joel Martinsen of Danwei.org (a fantastic website about media, advertising, and urban life in China) has emailed me this canister label from The Republic of Tea, a beverage company based in Novato, California. This is just another example of mistakes made by American companies while trying to cashing in on the trend of "Asian cool".

of 普洱 is missing the lower half partial.

The Republic of Tea is selling 3-oz of Pu-Erh tea for $30 plus shipping. For that price, the least thing they can do is to make sure the labels are printed correctly.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Interview with NPR


This afternoon I was interviewed by Robert Siegel of NPR’s program - All Things Considered.

Audio from the interview can be downloaded via NPR’s website or below:


Related media exposure:

Associated Press - Lost in Translation

STUFF Magazine - Tattooed Twits

Sydney Morning Herald - What Your Tattoo Really Says

FHM Lithuania - Perduok Salengai

RTHK Radio 3 - Radio Interview

Voice of America (Chinese) - Fashionable Chinese Characters

Tattoo Revue Magazine - You Know Who You Are

Voice of America (English) - Americans Misuse Chinese Characters

Washington Post Express - Lost in Translation

News 10 Syracuse - Asian Symbols

"Peace, Happiness, Love, Chaos"


This tattoo was submitted to BMEzine's tattoo gallery by Scott of S & J Tattoos in Lancaster, CA.

The photo's caption said the four characters are "Japanese text for Peace, Happiness, Love, and Chaos".

I have never seen any "happiness" character is written as the second character shown here in my life. I am curious about where did Scott got the design from.

Plus the last character does not really mean "chaos". There was a detailed discussion about it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

"Grasping Fate"

, "grasp, take hold of; monopolize",
, "hem, margin; reason, cause; karma, fate",

Note to self: I really should start charging U. S. Navy recruiting office for all the work I have done for them.

"Forever Lost"


If this tattooed phrase would be translated into English as "character-per-word", it would say "Forever Lost" or "Eternally Lost". Aside from the terrible calligraphy, the phrase is grammatically incorrect when it is read as Chinese.

"Bad Yob"

Reader Nicolas emailed me this photo of his friend's tattoo. It suppose to be "bad boy" in Chinese (), except the order of last two characters has been reversed.