Thursday, March 18, 2010

from: DeKalb D.
date: Sun, Mar 14, 2010 at 3:24 PM
subject: Henna tattoos at Six Flags

Hi Tian :)

I was walking through Six Flags over Georgia today and came across this in a henna tattoo booth.

What really confuses me is that while most of the descriptions are accurate, ALL of them are backwards except one - is labeled as "lovers" but backwards is labeled as "love"!

First thing I thought of was of sending it to Hanzi Smatter and letting the world see it :)

DeKalb :)

Henna tattoos at Six Flags (1 of 2)

Henna tattoos at Six Flags (2 of 2)


  1. 玩家 is supposed to be "Prayer" but doesn't this really mean "Player"?

  2. I find it interesting that some are completely reversed ("I Love You"), while others have the characters in the right order, but with each character reversed ("Peace", should be 平和).

  3. @Alex

    I think they are all completely reversed.

    "Peace" can be either 平和 or 和平. and "Passion" can be written as either 情熱 or 熱情. There are some slightly different nuances in the meaning depending on the character order and the language (Japanese or Chinese), though.

  4. Aren't they backwards so that when they're pasted on the skin, they'll be OK? The treble clef is reversed as well.

  5. Since these are stick on tattoos, the image you see is the tattoo itself before sticking it on the skin. After sticking it on the skin, it will appear the correct way when looking at it with the naked eye.

    When they made the signboard they probably just scanned the tattoo itself and didn't reverse it before putting it on the sign.

    Or maybe it's just for people who like to look at themselves in the mirror!

  6. The treble clef is transposed, but the "Choppers" on the cross in the second photo is not. So possibly these are NOT reversed stick-on tattoos. Could be the artist can't read Hanzi and also can't read music.

  7. I am a chinese native speaker
    so...maybe I could help something :D

    1. "Love" = "愛"
    but "Lovers" = "情人/愛人"

    2. violent is more like "暴力"
    we usually use "瘋狂" as "crazy"

    3. "Prayer" = "禱告/者"
    "玩家" should be "player"

    *Player has different meanings,it depends on the context*

    4. "Sexy" = "性感的"
    the translation "性的"
    sounds very strange to me
    and we don't say so.

    5. "Dance" = "踊" ???
    "踊" is classical chinese.
    Nowadays we usually use "舞"

  8. @ Alan:
    "Peace" can be either 平和 or 和平...."

    Peace in Modern Chinese = 和平
    Peace in Modern Japanese = 平和 [This would be the same word order as Chinese, if and only if Modern Chinese is still written from right to left.] Japanese just took the Ancient Chinese and didn't change the character order even if they write horizontally from left to right.

  9. Anon @1:54 pm:

    I don't know much about Chinese, but in modern Japanese, peace can be either 平和 or 和平. 平和 is the more ordinary word for peace, such as in hopes for peace on earth or a peace protest. In contrast, 和平 is used for very formal things such as a "peace treaty" which is 和平条約.

    I suspect they use the 和平 from classical Chinese for formal things because classical Chinese is to Japanese people something like what Latin is to Western Europeans.

    I don't know where 平和 came from.

    And I don't think this has anything to do with the direction of writing (left to right, right to left, top to bottom, etc.). The word (or character) order of individual characters and words is always the same in Japanese no matter which direction you write it.


  10. The only item in the whole display that's not backwards is "lovers."

    性的 means "sexual" in Japanese, but not "sexy."

  11. as a related question, in Chinese can 平 on its own mean peace? I know 平ら is "flat" in Japanese..

    the reason I ask is that i saw the character write large, subtitles as "peace" on a T-shirt at a folk festival (yes, quite ;) )

    sadly didn't have a camera at the time; there were probably some other howlers in there but that was the only one I recognised

  12. @ Jade LU

    5. "Dance" = "踊" ???
    "踊" is classical chinese.
    Nowadays we usually use "舞"

    That's a Japanese thing; they've two words for "to dance"
    踊る (odoru)
    舞う (mau)

    unfortunately, the noun form of the former is 踊り (odori) no 踊 on its own. (舞 (mai) is fine without okurigana)

  13. Yes, the hanzi given for Dance is correct in Japanese. Sounds like it is not correct in Chinese however.

  14. I find it patronizingly racist, that with this supposed "fascination" with Asian cultural, and the large number of Asian immigrants in this country, these Gwailo don't have any Asian friend or acquaintance to consult their tattoos with, as if they're above interacting with Asians on a personal level.

  15. Well...
    I'm not a linguist, but I do know sometimes japanese share hanzi with chinese but the meaning of word might be different :D

    the original meaning of 踊 was a certain kind of shoes which were designed for the victime of an ancient execution (刖刑,it involves cutting the legs away)

    踊 itself can be a verb, too.
    (similar to jump / leap / rise...)

    We use a different form "踴" to replace "踊" in modern chinese.
    It might be the reason why I felt so weird about "踊" (!?)

  16. To Jade Lu:

    Thanks! I didn't know that origin. Despite its gruesome origins, 踊 is indeed correct in modern Japanese for dance, and it can also be jump or leap as you have pointed out. I learn something every time I visit this site!

  17. "Hero" is missing a character (not that partial) for it to be accurate, I believe. 英 by itself according to Babelfish is "UK", which I guess is right. I usually associate 英 with something English (except for Hero, haha).

    The right term for "Hero" would be 英雄, no? Wouldn't the "artist" know this considering the movie "Hero" has the Chinese characters in the as well? I guess that could be too much work for a cheap stencil.

    Unless someone familiar with Japanese can prove me wrong. :P

  18. About "Hero," something is obviously wrong but I couldn't quite put my finger on what. At first I thought it might be 英人 with a horribly malformed 人, but 英人 in Japanese means Englishman not hero.

    But then I looked at a zoomed-up version of it in a mirror and noticed that the second character looks something like the Japanese kana ナ but very much like the two strokes at the left hand side of 雄, so I guess it was supposed to be 英雄 after all.

    Evidently the rest of the character 雄 got lost somehow.