Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Few Stitches Short

larger view

Reader Theresa emailed in this cross-stitching template and wants to know if all the Chinese characters were written correctly. This template titled “Bonsai and Buddha” was designed by Nicholas Charles and manufactured by a company based in Reading, PA, USA called Dimensions.

is missing a few dots in the partial.

is missing a horizontal stroke.

should have written as the traditional version of to be consistent with the rest of characters.

is missing a top dot.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Language Misuse Go Round and Round

Here at Hanzi Smatter, my associates and I have spent endless hours chuckling over miswritten Chinese character tattoos. We also know that on the other side of the globe, there are probably some Asian schmucks that have English gibberish (or Engrish) tattooed on them as well. Even though we believed our prediction would be true, there has never been anyone that sends us photographic evidence to prove it.

That is why we were so excited when Reid Barrett sent this photo to us from Beijing. Along with the photo, Reid had this to say:


I'm a big fan of your site. Unfortunately like all Blogger and blogspot sites, it is blocked in China and so I have to go through proxies to keep up with your page.

Anyway, I was on the subway one day and noticed this Chinese guy standing next to me with a tattoo. When I saw what it was and the significance clicked, I was glad I had my camera with me. He let me snap off a pick just as he was leaving. Sorry it's not a great picture, but hopefully you and everybody else will get a kick out of it: a crudely made tattoo of a clichéd phrase in English on the body of a Chinese guy who doesn't understand a word of the language.

Yup, it says 'I love you!' but as you may be able to see the 'o' and 'v' are smashed together, the 'y' is written rather sloppily, and the 'u' is only half finished. It is a perfect parallel to poorly written Chinese and Kanji."

There are two reasons why we are ecstatic about Reid's find in Beijing's subway:

1. Superficial knowledge and misuse of language happens everywhere. Just look at

2. Asians are not the only people that carry cameras, although the stereotyping is still funny and often true. I am doing my part to "representing" and keeping the stereotyping alive by purchasing another camera - Canon Powershot S1 IS.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Carisa Anderson's Upside Down "Devotion"

Reader Andy emails me several photos of Dennis Anderson and his new bride Carisa at their wedding in Las Vegas earlier this year. For those who do not know who Dennis Anderson is, he is the driver of monster truck, the "Grave Digger".

The new Mrs. Anderson seems to have an upside down on her right arm.

= loyalty, devotion, fidelity

Monday, July 25, 2005

Dummies for Kanji

Reader Dan has pointed me to today's "Joe and Monkey" by Zach Miller.

The two-character phrase featured in the comic means "idiot".

Just a side note, even though both Japanese and Chinese use same if not similar characters, when they are used as Chinese, the characters are "Hanzi", and as Japanese, they are referred as "Kanji".

It Says "Princess" in Japanese

Reader Heather has send me a link to today's Questionable Content webcomic by Jeph Jacques. One of the characters, Raven, decides to get a Japanese tattoo, and of course end up with a tongue lashing from others.

= princess

Sunday, July 24, 2005

"Tranquility" Lost

I saw this "Wall Hanging Asian Character" for sale at a local Bed Bath and Beyond store. The character has an English caption stating it means "tranquility". The truth is far from "tranquil".

Depends on how is used as in a phrase or sentence, it has many meanings including "catch; receive; suffer", "to make known; to show; to prove; to write; book; outstanding", and "plan; settlement; to wear", but none of them means "tranquility".

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hotdogs Tattoo in Big Brother Australia

Reader Amy points me to an article posted on Big Brother Australia's website about one of their housemates' tattoo:

Hotdogs took some inspiration from the East when it came time to choose his tattoos. On his right arm is a series of Chinese characters, during his first day in the house Dean and Glenn joked that these might represent Hotdogs favourite meal at the local Chinese takeaway. Hotdogs explained that he understands the characters to mean: "strong, fierce, the heaven is eternal, the earth everlasting, King."

Alma Yuan a translator from Australian/Chinese company Uni-Pacific Services confirms that the four smaller characters in combination do mean 'everlasting'. However, rather perversely, one of the larger characters is a posthumous title for Zhu Youjian, the last emperor of Ming Dynasty, who notoriously hung himself as the rebels approached to conquer Beijing. (more)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tricky Tiger Saloon

Reader Aylwin emails from Canada:

I spotted this shirt on display last weekend at The Bay (a Canadian department store chain) at Bloor & Yonge in Toronto..."

The character on the upper left corner means "rescue" or "save". According to my Hong Kong native friend Angela, the four characters in the Chinese seal (or Japanese hanko) is a Cantonese slang about cool good looking guy. literally means "[to] have shape" or "shapely", and means "good looking guy". In Mandarin Chinese, is used to describe a good looking guy.

The only conclusion I can draw from the shirt is that "in order to be a cool good looking guy at the Tricky Tiger Saloon, one must rescue a tiger from a white wife-beater tanktop".

Monday, July 11, 2005

Gamer Shirt

From reader Sarah:

"Hi. Been watching for a while now, and as a Japanese education major must admit that I have giggled uncontrollably on more than one account.

Anyway, just thought I'd pass on this beauty my boyfriend sent my way. The actual website has 先週 listed as meaning "gamer". Even my ex-roommate, who only took a craptacular Japanese class for two years, had to giggle and comment on how 'close' 先週 is to "gamer" (can you feel the sarcasm just leaking from that?).


I have seen "gamer" been translated as ゲーマー in Japanese but never 先週.

[せんしゅう] last week/the week before

Friday, July 8, 2005

Talk Nerdy To Me

From Reader Malinda:

"Tian, long time reader first time emailer. I bought this shirt on - now I'm nervous... Does it really say 'Talk Nerdy to me?'"

Other than is missing a dot on top (thanks to anon.), I forwarded her question to my associates and here is what they had to say about the shirt.

Aaron replied with:

"Well, it's not WRONG, as in poor Japanese, but it's not really 'Talk Nerdy to Me' either. It says 'Konpyuuta gengo de hanasou ze.' This translates roughly to 'Let's speak in the language of computers!' The dirty/nerdy wordplay is, of course, obliterated once you get into Japanese.

Also, nerds are, of course, not just computer people, and not all computer people are nerds. I usually translate "nerd" as "otaku," although that conjures up more of an anime/manga freak than a computer/DnD freak... It's basically not the sort of thing that translates very well.

That being said, having taught Japanese and having just met up with some of my former students in Tokyo the other night, just having the shirt in Japanese might be sufficiently nerdy to impart the intended meaning."

Ken replied with:

"Not a bad translation although I wouldn't say it's a natural Japanese sentence. Grammatically, there's no problems.

I'd re-translate this Japanese into English as: Shall we talk in the computer language?

1. Real nerds wouldn't say "the computer language".

2. The letter at the very end which reads "ze" is written in katakana instead of hiragana. This is like, wRi71ng 3nGlisH LIk3 THis. Well, not this much, but basically it's a word play. In any case, using a katakana letter at the end is way out of fasion.

Having said all the above, I like this T-shirt. It's funny enough to make me laugh. Come to think of it, it's so much better to have an awkward sentence on a T-shirt than to have a perfect sentence. It draws more attention. That's what a phrase on a T-shirt is supposed to do."

Now you know, and knowing is:



or "Knowing is half the battle".

Saturday, July 2, 2005

Dogging the Past

In Spring of 2003, Junko Hamaguchi wrote an article titled "Lost in Translation - Here’s what those cool-looking Japanese tattoos really say" for Echo Magazine, a student magazine for Columbia College Chicago. The same article was then republished in Chicago Tribune.

One of the photos was this one:

The photo's caption says:

The tattoo belongs to Marcus Gonzales
  • What he thinks his tattoo says: "strength" and "courage."
  • What it actually says: The left part of the symbol appears to say "dog," while the right part conveys something along the lines of "time moving into the past." Smushed together, the two symbols amount to gibberish.
The amazing thing is that I have found an exact replica of it in July 2005 issue of Tattoos for Women magazine!

The legend continues...