Golden Pig, Coffin Man and Noodles: When Asian tattoos don”t turn out quite as planned
Asian character tattoos have long been in style, with millions of brooding youths, aging hippies and pseudo-intellectuals seeking to express their world view via a couple of exotic-looking symbols etched into their skin.
But many of the body art enthusiasts with a taste for the ‘Orient’ do not bother to research what is it exactly they are having permanently inked on their ankle or lower back, to disastrous – and hilarious – results.
The Hanzi Smatter blog, run by Tian Tang, has been trying to set the record straight by chronicling the ‘misuse of Chinese characters in Western culture’ and translating would-be ‘Asian’ tattoos for the benefit his readers.
Porcine predicament: A man ended up with a “Golden Pig” tattoo on his back, and the symbol for “Pig” is inverted
Exotic gobbledygook: in many cases, like in these tattoos, the symbols turn out to be complete gibberish
In the best-case scenario, the symbols turn out to be meaningless gibberish designed to look like an actual word, or a poor translation of a Western name into Chinese.
But at times, Tian encounters real head-scratchers. In one case, a fierce ‘Outlaw’ tattoo ended up translating to the less-than-threatening ‘Hiding Criminal,’ or alternatively, a ‘Snitch.’
In a more macabre twist, a tattoo that was supposed to say ‘Fear No Man’ improbably turned out to be ‘Coffin Man.’
Lost in translation: The symbols on the left were meant to say “Joey,” but the tattoo is meaningless, while the intended meaning of the tattoo on the right may have been “left and right,” but it ended up translating as “Hand Flow”
Cryptic: The tattoo is in Korean alphabet, but upside-side down, and it reads “Park Noh Sik”
A woman with an apparent love of nature meant to ink her body with the rather innocuous word ‘Tree,’ but instead, she was branded a ‘Ho’ like some modern-day Esther Prin from The Scarlett Letter.
Ona similar note, one young lady wished to have the word ‘Bitch’ carved into her skin, but the artist took some liberties with the language and instead inked the words ‘Cheap Whore.’
Mistaken identity: A woman meant to get the Chinese symbol for “Courage” tattooed on her body, but it turned out to be a “Big Mistake,” literary
Dark humour: Tattoo on the left is based on gibberish font and all the characters are mirrored, while the one on the right was supposed to say “Fear No Man,” but instead it says “Coffin Man”
This ink was meant to say “I am Goddess,” but to do that, one of the symbols would have to be split into two vertical parts
A body art fan with a philosophical frame of mind meant to have the phrase ‘To Fight is to Suffer’ tattooed on his skin. Instead, he ended up with the far bleaker message: ‘Exhausted/Poor.’
In many cases, the calligraphy is so poor and the combination of symbols appears so random that it is hard for Tang to figure out what exactly the person getting the tattoo had in mind when he or she went to get inked.
Visual nonsense: Symbols on the left were meant to say “Family,” but in their current form they are devoid of any meaning, and the ones on the right are utter gibberish
Oops: The symbols were supposed to say “Loyalty,” but they ended up translating as “Noodles”
Missing the mark: The intended message of the tattoo on the right was “Ride Hard Die Free,” but the symbols are loosely translated as freely riding die-cast figurines.” On the left, the symbols were meant to say “Tree,” but they actually mean “Ho”
Among the more colourful examples in this category is ‘Golden Pig’ (with the symbol for ‘Pig’ upside down); ‘I Am slow/Pregnant’ and ‘My Abusive Husband Pimps Me Out.’
But nothing captures the predicament of getting a tattoo in a language you don’t know than the case of the person who meant to get inked with symbols for ‘Loyalty,’ only to end up with ‘Noodles’ permanently carved into his body.
The goal was to get “Strength” inked, but the result is either “Foster” or “Small Animal”
Bizarre: The intended message in the image on the left was “Outlaw,” but it actually says “Hidden Criminal,” while the tattoo on the right means “dense growth of bush”