Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reader Eric C. emailed me this ad for aussieBum underwear.

From Engrish & Hanzi Smatter

The top two characters appeared to me as mirrored 决心 ("determination"). I have no idea what the reference of two characters below, , is about. means "[to] cut down", and means "big".

Oh dear...

I think the model has unintentionally tattooed himself with "determined to cut down something big".

Update: I found a photo of the same male model via Google, who is he?

Monday, February 16, 2009


I'm Robert (aka. iluvchickswithinks81), I got these Chinese and Russian characters at Hardcore Tattoo, also the tribals on my shoulders that go up onto my neck, my last name inside my arm in old english lettering and last but not least my nipple pierced.

Robert's back is covered with random characters. All of them are poorly done and some of them are not even correct. I have yet seen the Russian characters he is referring to.

This is absolutely shitty tattoo work.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

from: Nick B.
date: Sat, Feb 14, 2009 at 9:56 AM
subject: Tshirt query

Hi Tian,

I've been wearing this shirt for years. Having just discovered your site I'm now a bit worried...

Please tell me it doesn't say something stupid and make me look like more of an idiot than normal.



(ps: keep up the good work! :D)

Alan and I had a good laugh at this shirt and here is what Alan said:

Well, I'll tell you what it says, and you can decide whether it is stupid or not.

From what I can tell, the text on the T-shirt appears to have been cut-and-pasted from the warranty information for an IBM Japan (now Lenovo) computer.

I can tell this because the phone number 0120-20-5550 on the shirt is that for the company's Japanese support center.

Also, just to the right of the neck of the shirt, you will see BMサービ, which was obviously cut from IBMサービス・センター (IBM Service Center).

The Japanese text itself says things like: "In the case that a malfunction should occur, only repair service will be offered." or "We do not accept orders by FAX."

The text is incomplete and overlapping and hard to read, so it is pretty pointless to try to read much more than this, but I think you get the point.

I don't know, but it might have a certain Japanese computer geek allure, although I have no idea if that is up your alley.
from: William P.
date: Sat, Feb 7, 2009 at 11:43 PM
subject: Tattoo Help

I got this tattoo years ago. It's supposed to be the Chinese character for smooth. I'm just wondering whether or not that's what it means.


Tattoo Help

means "[to] slip/slide" or slippery".

Update: Reader Traveler was unsatisfied with my entry and offered an addition of his own:

Tian, I love your site. Though, to toss in a friendly comment, IMHO you often respond to inquiries with just a simple explanation of what some character means. Without delving into the writer's real, unspoken question: "Yeah, but does this make any sense as a tattoo?"

So, if I may humbly attempt to give this poor defaced person some extra context to help understand what he's done to his arm :

The character with meanings of "slip/slide/slippery" is perhaps the closest one could get to a single character meaning "smooth" – but just in the literal sense of "non-rough (surface)". Unless I'm mistaken, it carries no Chinese/Japanese meaning equating to the English slang meanings of "smooth" - sophisticated, cool, polished, urbane, etc. - which I would guess is what Mr P had in mind.

Often, you also (kindly) decline to comment on the artistic merit of the tattoos you present. But, assuming that Mr P would bravely want to know:

It's awful. Just hideous - yet another hack job by an "artist" who simply has no idea how a character is properly constructed.

So, assuming Mr P really wants to know whether his tattoo makes any sense or not: No, from the perspective of a Chinese/Japanese reader, it's both meaningless and ineptly drawn. That said, from the perspective of people who don't read Chinese/Japanese - presumably the majority of this tattoo's "audience" - well, I suppose it may be just fine. Mr P can tell people it means "smooth", or "smooth operator", or "Ninja samurai dragon honor", and that it's an expert artistic rendition by Shaolin calligrapher monks... and few will be the wiser. In that sense, he can go forth and feel comfortable with it!
from: Richard K.
date: Fri, Feb 13, 2009 at 9:21 PM
subject: hanzismatter submission

I am writing this with my hands over my eyes, peeking through my fingers to see if I get the answer ... I got this tattooed on my back in retaliation (yes, a permanent mark in a fit of spite) for an ex-girlfriend's own tattoo of some trampy "angel" that spanned from shoulder blade to shoulder blade. Even if this tattoo means "homosexual lover" it's not as bad as the cracked out Tinkerbell on her back (at least that's what I keep telling myself)! Help me out, because I'm eager to know if this is what it says it is. If not, I have to get it covered up with a giant penis or a hamburger or something else somewhat less ridiculous.

Should add that I expected it meant "to give love".


Richard K.

Since has almost no meaning in Chinese, I asked Alan to see if he can dig up something in Japanese. He replied they have no meaning in Japanese either.

Happy Valentine's Day Singles Awareness Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

from: James T.
date: Tue, Feb 10, 2009 at 3:00 PM
subject: submission

Hi, thought you might get a kick out of this. I saw it in my local Asda supermarket (in the UK). I take it to be 女耳魚号日月 (woman, ear, fish, number, day, month) and 雨馬魚耳雲 (rain, horse, fish, ear, cloud), with the middle two 実神 meaning 'true god'. Dunno if thats the same that it is in Chinese, but I have to say that no truly authentic Tokyoite from Shinjuku would wear this shirt, except ironically I guess!

Loved the site for years!

from: Laura I.
date: Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 1:31 PM
subject: Japanese/Chinese characters

I recently bought a poster with Chinese/Japanese characters on it, and I wanted to be sure the characters actually said what the poster told me they meant. Can you verify that they do mean what they said they mean? I've enclosed a picture. Thanks!

I have seen similar posters before where is used incorrect to represent "harmony". It means "key".

The character does not mean "prosper", rather "spoon".

Friday, February 6, 2009

from: Emily B.

date: Fri, Feb 6, 2009 at 2:55 PM
subject: Tattoo

i got this tattoo years ago it was supposed to mean warrior- now I'm just really questioning whether or not that's what it means.
Can you help? Thanks,



It looks like this "warrior" had some combat injury.

Actually, by itself only means "military; martial, warlike".

Perhaps the same person did her tattoo work also painted these handicap parking space logos:

Armless Handicapped Parking Spot 01

Sunday, February 1, 2009

from: Kim
date: Wed, Jan 28, 2009 at 2:14 PM
subject: Requesting help - possible wrong kanji for tattoo

I was recently in Hawaii, got a tattoo that was suppose to be the kanji for HOPE however now that I am home I have done some searching and everything I am finding is not what I actually got. Could you possibly have any idea what actually I have now tattoo'd to my back?


by itself means "a period of time, date".

is "hope" and is more common.