Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Joanne Raine's "Supermarket" Tattoo

Apparently the big story across the pond in UK is a girl's tattoo. A young girl named Joanne Raine got her boyfriend's nickname tattooed on her with Chinese characters at a dodgy tattoo shop. Of course, they have since then broke up & the tattoo is not exactly the boy's name.


News links via BBC, The Northern Echo, & video via LiveLeak



The phrase "supermarket" is 超級市場 or abbreviated to 超市 in Chinese. I have no idea how and why was interpreted as "supermarket" in the news clips.


Update: Dec. 13, 2007 - I have emailed BBC regarding the error of interpreting as "supermarket" .

36 comments:

  1. another victim of the "Asian Font" idiocy?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nope. Roo using the Asian font would have a repeated character. The photo shows 3 distinct characters.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So, what does her friend's tattoo say?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Perhaps "supermarket" means something in romantic in whatever language that is she was speaking.

    ReplyDelete
  5. OK, that seems to say 盟联行, méng lián xíng/háng. Pledge-ally-conduct? Surely that doesn't mean "supermarket"? Wouldn't that be 超级市场?

    If they really wanted "roo", they could have gone for "入" in Mandarin, or "ル" in katakana. Or perhaps 袋鼠. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Justin-

    From the Northeast Echo article:

    Miss Raine said: "They had Chinese symbols on the wall.

    "So I picked capital r, capital o and small o, so they were all different."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yeah super market is: 超级市场 or shortened to 超市

    So... is this an example of double illiteracy?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Justin, the article said:

    "She went to Skindeep Tattoo Parlour, in High Northgate, Darlington, and chose a capital r, capital o and small o from the wall and paid £80."

    so i thought because one "o" was upper cased and the other was lower cased, it would result in 3 different words being displayed. thanks for clearing that up.

    btw, my wife (Taiwanese) thinks that might be part of a store name. if the Chinese people whom were asked didn't have the English skills to properly express that, they might have just said "supermarket" instead.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yeah, it definitely doesn't mean "supermarket." I'm surprised Tian didn't say anything about it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Seriously, the girl said she picked three characters off of a chart, which were randomly paired up with letters from the alphabet, both capital and lowercase.

    It is three random characters

    What is more likely?
    1. It is random giberish that some non-chinese speaker thinks might mean supermarket, and the BBC didn't both to fact check.
    2. Against all odds of probability, choosing 'R' 'O' 'o' results in a valid noun.

    ReplyDelete
  11. My better half, whose first language is Cantonese, read it and says it reads "Union" (as in union of people) "walk" (as in protest or demonstration) but that the words are flipped.

    I guess you could say it's a hippie tattoo? ; )

    ReplyDelete
  12. If you look at the chart it flashes in clip toward the very end, you discover the origin of the Love hurts, easy money tattoo (恋痛い あぶく銭) posted on this blog a while back.

    ReplyDelete
  13. It could have been that the characters were picked at random as the hapless tattooee claims, but the combination 联盟 does mean "union," "united" or "alliance" so this seems less than random (although the characters are tatooed in the wrong order).

    The character 行 can also mean "go." Perhaps someone wanted say "Go Union" or "Go United" to express support for a labor union or some sort of sports team named United, but the tattooist tattooed the pidgin Chinese phrase 行联盟 upside down.

    There is a famous soccer team named Manchester United, and the lady has a strong regional English accent. Might she be from Manchester?

    -Alan

    ReplyDelete
  14. I just saw it on FOX news as well, thought that was funny. They said it means "Supermarket" or "Shop"? I do not read Chinese, I read the kanji in Japanese, and don't even recognize the first two?

    ReplyDelete
  15. "I do not read Chinese, I read the kanji in Japanese, and don't even recognize the first two"
    You must not know many Japanese kanji either then. The second one is common. The first one in Japanese would be written 聯, as in 聯盟, but 連盟 is today more common (same meaning, same pronunciation, though). For example, the League of Nations (precursor to the UN) is 国際連盟.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I just watched this on Fox News "Red Eye" and thought, firstly, that it was interesting that this would even get any air time at all. And when they showed the clip of this idiot talking, I couldn't help but laugh. I don't know anything about the Chinese language, but this chick was an idiot to think you could simply "spell" out a name in Chinese as you do in English.

    Next question - what language was this chick speaking?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Alan Siegrist, it really does not mean "Go United", or anything like that. The article states that she is from Darlington in County Durham. That's half-way between Newcastle and Yorkshire. She's not from Manchester, though she does have a similarly incomprehensible accent, coupled with a slight speech impediment.

    But hang on a minute, there is further evidence of her stupidity: even if we ignore her ignorance of Chinese (you can't expect everyone to know about these things), she still thought she was getting a tattoo that said "ROo", which is not even correct in English!

    In England, this is the sort of person we call a "chav".

    ReplyDelete
  18. In response to David Short - Well, the tattoo certainly does not mean "Supermarket" or "Roo," so I was simply casting about for a possible explanation of its meaning.

    I know that fans or supporters of sports teams like to get tattoos demonstrating their loyalty to the team, so why not get one in Chinese (or faux Chinese)?

    If the "supermarket" explanation came from the young lady herself, that part of her story does not add up, so it reasonably casts doubt on the rest of the story.

    Perhaps she made up the whole sob story to get sympathy for her plight of having unwisely gotten a Chinese tattoo she didn't want.

    Maybe it was supposed to say "Go United" because she or her boyfriend was a United supporter but when the boyfriend left, she thought it would be embarrassing to have a United tattoo given that she is from Darlington.

    Who knows? It all sounds fishy. Maybe she is just trying to put one over on the BBC.

    -Alan

    ReplyDelete
  19. I didn't really get it until David and Alan had their back-and-forth there, but yeah, the "Go United" thing is very compelling. After all, it doesn't seem all that likely that she would happen to get a valid (and extremely common) two-character compound (backwards or not) from a makeshift "Asian font."

    Maybe the tattoo artist was "taking the piss," as they say across the pond, since this girl wasn't likely to ever know any better anyway. All that would require would be a preexisting pidgin Chinese "Go United" template and a tattoo artist who really didn't care. Maybe she just forgot that she got what she thought was her boyfriend's team and thought she had gotten his name. Or maybe, as Alan said, she made it up.

    All of these sound more plausible than the "Roo" thing (though my first hypothesis could still overlap with it).

    We need someone who's good at Internet Detective Work here. Maybe someone who can actually figure out how to contact this girl, though I imagine her side of the exchange would be something along the lines of "Cor, teh blooy tatoo geezer done given mne teh wrong bleedin tatoo!"

    ReplyDelete
  20. as any mancunian will tell you, most people who support manchester united aren't actually from manchester. it's certainly entirely possible she would have got a pro-united tattoo despite being from darlington.

    ReplyDelete
  21. It does seem rather unlikely that of three characters picked at random, two could be put together to form a word. However, it's surely not entirely impossible. If the characters making up the "alphabet" chart had been taken from a piece of text containing multiple-character words on a related theme rather than totally at random, wouldn't this increase the odds?

    Anyway, I don't know about elsewhere in the Chinese-speaking world, but in the Chinese "supermarkets" round here (basically just grocery stores and not very big) the naming convention seems to be somethingsomething行 so in that respect it does resemble a "supermarket" name.

    ReplyDelete
  22. getting a tattoo of your significant other is a bad idea in the first place, man.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I just know a chinese supermarket in China which is called 世纪联华, but I don't think there is any relation with the meaning of the tattoo, I don't know why they would say it means supermarket, but once again this is a proof on how many mistakes the media make, and many people believe.

    ReplyDelete
  24. 联行 means correspondent, according to http://dict.cn/ . but when you check 'correspondent' 联行 doesnt come up. but the two characters sound like they should mean some associative kind of adjective 盟 can mean ally, allied union (欧盟 means EU) but placed at the beginning of this phrase it would modify 联行. which is to say, i dont see how you can make any sense of this.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Perhaps the solution to this enigma is the following:
    Maybe who ordered the tattoo intended to write 曼联 "man lian" the common name for Manchester United team. For unknown reasons the first character 曼 "man" was confused with "meng" 盟 (in a certain way they can sound similar)
    and then 行 xing means to walk to go...
    So the translation should be Go MANCHESTER UNITED, that's to say a chant to support the football team.

    btw congratulations for this blog, very funny :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Are any of you actually Chinese? Obviously this word looks like the NAME of a supermarket, as someone insightfully pointed out but nobody seems to have noticed.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Im not Chinese but I've lived here for five years, and I speak and read mandarin every day. I searched the internet for 盟联行 just to see if it comes up as a phrase. it doesnt. i also checked 盟联行超市 but theres nothing. I would like to figure out the mystery of this phrase, but it doesnt seem to have any meaning. I was thinking it could be 盟联, 行。as in, 'unite, it can be done' or something. 行 has two pronouciations, xing and hang, it can mean all sorts of things.
    At this point I have to give in to the conclusion that this phrase is meaningless and the investment of energy into deciphering it is embarrasing.

    ReplyDelete
  28. CW (Manchester, UK)January 18, 2008 at 5:10 PM

    There is a supermarket chain in the UK run by the Cooperative Society. I think 盟联行 could probably be very loosely and inaccurately translated to "Cooperative Society", hence further interpreted as "supermarket".

    However, "cooperative society" should be literally translated to "he zuo she".

    ReplyDelete
  29. This actually is the name of a supermarket chain with its headquarters in Hong Kong 'qu-cheng' - so the BBC report is misleading, but not entirely inaccurate. They have a branch in Beijing city centre.

    ReplyDelete
  30. EmyrPugh, you wrote:

    This actually is the name of a supermarket chain with its headquarters in Hong Kong 'qu-cheng'

    Would you mind elaborating? If true, this would be a nice clue to the real meaning of the tattoo. I cannot seem to find any mention of this supermarket.

    What is the exact Chinese name of the supermarket chain? What is its English name? Do you have some sort of Web reference that mentions it?

    And what do you mean by 'qu-cheng'? Is this an area of Hong Kong?

    -Alan

    ReplyDelete
  31. As a Northern Brit I'd like to point out that one of the big teams up here is Newcastle United, it's very plausible for someone to be a Darlington supporter and a Newcastle fan but I'm not familiar with Newcastle being abbreviated to "United" the way Man U is. Here is how Newcastle United is written on the Chinese Language version of wikipedia: http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%BA%BD%E5%8D%A1%E6%96%AF%E5%B0%94%E8%81%94%E8%B6%B3%E7%90%83%E4%BF%B1%E4%B9%90%E9%83%A8

    ReplyDelete
  32. They might have been thinking of 联盟行会, like a fellowship or guild.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Loved the "Live leak" video. Surely the people that filmed it could donate some money, so that she could have a nice Chinese dragon or something put over the top of it.

    ReplyDelete
  34. What if the tattooist, who runs a shabby tattoo shop and is a huge fan of manchester united, gets drunks in a shabby pub, meets someone who claims to speak, read and write "chinese". The depressed tattoist lets him write down the phrase "go, manchester united", which is done in a very amateur way, and from this day on the tattooist will give every customer who demands a "chinese" tattoo exactly the same phrase. AND: if two people want a chinese phrase of their own, he mirrors the phrase to make it look different.
    sinister, i know, but i bet this is how it happend.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I think I have definitively found the source of Joanne's tattoo. See:
    http://www.karate1.com/alphabet/alphabet2.htm

    Notice that 盟 is “R,” 联 is “O” and 行 is “o,” thus spelling ROo, and so this computer font is plausible as the source of Joanne’s tattoo 盟联行, which was supposed to be her boyfriend’s nickname “Roo” in Chinese.

    I think we can put to bed any speculation about it meaning “supermarket” or “Go United!” or anything similar.

    It was just random symbols in a gibberish Chinese alphabet computer font.

    -Alan

    ReplyDelete
  36. yeah, well, alan: you might have found "the source", but i like jassis explanation much better.

    ReplyDelete