Thursday, December 30, 2004

"Abusive Husband Pimps Me Out"

Shannon Larratt from emails me this photo submitted by one of his readers. It is a tattoo on the wrist of someone's wife.

I am very confused about why would anyone tattoo "my abusive husband pimps me out". Is this some sort of advertisement? If so, where is the price list? Perhaps on her lower back?

The Chinese word for "pimp" is 拉皮條者.

= pull, drag; seize, hold; lengthen

= man, male adult, husband

= power, force; tendency

= low; cheap, worthless

= man; people; mankind

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Badges of Misknowledge

A student from Columbia University has written a term paper based on Hanzi Smatter.

Jon Brilliant is a sophomore at Columbia University where he studies Art History, Chinese and Linguistics.

He can be contacted at this email address:

jonbrilliant at gmail dot com

PDF: badgesofmisknowledge.pdf

Monday, December 20, 2004

Holding Lives

From reader "Nic T.":

"Hey there mate, I think I got to your site via Big White Guy, it's a great read! I got a tattoo of the Chinese phrase 'Jup Sang' several years ago - just the characters - but recently got some color added to it. This was the day after so it looks a bit crusty. I had seen the characters in a TIME magazine article on Hong Kong gambling, where it said it meant 'to take a chance' in life or 'live with the path you have chosen'. I lived on Hong Kong for 20 yrs and always wanted a tattoo with Chinese characters that meant something to me. I was hoping you knew the literal and true translation of the tattoo - as I have often had strange looks from local Chinese when they see it - which can't be a good thing!! Many thanks"

The literal translation is "holding lives", but it actually means "controlling destiny".

= hold in hand; keep; carry out

= life, living, lifetime; birth

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Respect the Weak Authority

From reader "Shay S.":

"Dear Tian, the attached photo is that of a the characters on the front of a shirt I bought at Walmart some years ago. I can't say I've worn it much, since it was soon after I really thought about the fact that it could say anything. Living in a city with a tiny Asian population, I have never had the event to find out what it means. I hope the picture is clear enough to be read."

I really have no idea what the second character supposed to be. In order to make the phrase to be somewhat meaningful, I thought it might be . Therefore the phrase would be something like "respect the weak authority".

This phrase also reminded me of Cartman from South Park yelling about "respect my authority" and recently my friend Eric got beaten up by two off-duty police officers in Mesa, Arizona.

= weak, watery; insipid, tasteless

= denote a sound or sharp noise

= orderly, neat, tidy; whole

= grave, respectful, majestic

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Plum and Prune

From reader "Laura M.":

"Hi there, Congratulations for your blog. I just happened to come across it by means of, which provides interesting links to readers from all over on a daily basis. I was wondering if you could tell me what this tattoo means. It's my sister's, but it was me who paid for it because our parents wouldn't. I've always wondered what it means, and I'm dying to tell her. Whatever the meaning is, we're ready. Thanks a lot."

It is a common Chinese surname. According to Wikipedia, about 7.9 percent of the Chinese population is surnamed . As of 2002, there were approximately 103 million people in China and 108 million worldwide with this surname. To date, this remains the world's most common surname.

It also means "plum" or "prune". I am curious about why Laura's sister got this tattoo without fully understand what it meant.

= plum; judge; surname

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"Loves the Pain"

From reader "Rae S.":

"Hi, great site! You probably get a ton of email requests... but I was wondering if you would take a look at this tattoo. My little sister got it this summer and she says it means "love hurts" I tried to look it up but haven't found any results. Thank you."

First of all, the extra strokes on the right side is not needed.

Secondly, the two characters are indeed "love" and "pain". Except the context is wrong. Instead of saying "love hurts", it says "loves the pain", as in sadism and masochism context.

Lastly, the character for "love" is simplified version. It would be much better if it was done in Traditional version, which would add more elegance:

(traditional version: ) = love; long for, yearn for; love

= pain, ache; sorry, sad; bitter

On the good side, it does not say "donkey butt".

Update: I have got an email from Jim Simpson, a Japan-Born-American, which offered his service to be in the "translator pool". Jim has also posted his debut comment under this posting stating that the tattoo above translates "love hurts" in Japanese.

I would also like to re-emphasize on the fact that one thing many people don't realize the Japanese share same Kanji (or Hanzi, Chinese characters) with Chinese, except with slightly different meanings.

Often someone would get a Kanji tattoo with Japanese translation would have complete different meaning if it was read as Chinese. Vice versa.

Monday, December 13, 2004

"Healthy Catch Empty Achievement"

From reader "Christina S.":

"Hello, I’ve been to your site many times and I have a tattoo on my lower back in Chinese. I know there is not such thing as letters in Chinese NOW, but these characters are supposed to represent MIKE. Now I’m am really curious to what I have inked on my back. Can you help me? Thanks."

I feel really bad about this one, because it is no where near "MIKE". Especially the second character does not even exist in Hanzi or Kanji vocabulary. The closest one is "" which means "catch", but there is an extra dot in the tattoo.

= peaceful, quiet; happy, healthy

= catch, arrest; shoot with bow

= empty, hollow, bare, deserted

= achievement, merit, good result

Friday, December 10, 2004

Master of Stupidity

Roddy from Chinese Forums tipped me about an user "insanejester" on his forum wanting to get a Chinese tattoo for his 18th birthday.

The photo shown above is what the young man finally got.

It means "idiot".

= dull; dull-minded, simple, stupid

= offspring, child; fruit, seed of; 1st terrestrial branch

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Site News: Shannon Larratt from BMEzine

Shannon Larratt, founder of the largest body modification magazine BMEzine, has emailed me with the following:

"I liked your Kanji page. I did a similar article some time ago:

I have a gallery of kanji tattoos here:

If you would ever like to write an article for my zine using the photos from my galleries, I'd love to publish it.


Botched Female, Dog, Tiger

From reader "Jan I.":

"The picture is just a random encounter during a shopping afternoon - a cap with some random looking letters .. I wonder if they carry any meaning at all? Cheers."

The first character looks like a botched "female".

= female, woman, girl; feminine

The second one can be either "dog" or "to protect" depends on it is a dot or stroke in the center.

= eleventh sign of Chinese zodiac (The Dog, 7pm-9pm, west-northwest, September)

= defend borders, guard frontiers

The last one is correct and it means "tiger"

= third sign of Chinese zodiac (The Tiger, 3am-5am, east-northeast, January); to respect, reverence; respectfully

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

"Green Rice"

This guy might thought it was a great idea to tattoo "essence" () on his elbows. But by spliting the character into two halves, he got "Green Rice".

= hulled or husked uncooked rice; meter

= blue-green; young