Friday, September 30, 2005

Strange "Love"

Three weeks ago, I emailed Shannon Larratt a list of incorrect tattoo samples that were featured in his BMEzine tattoo gallery. One thing I pointed out was that some tattooists may be sharing inaccurate tattoo stencils (or flash). Perhaps they just purchased the stencils from the same company, but all their clients had the exact same mistake in their tattoos.

This week I saw the same trend again. All these tattoos of the character (love) are missing a dot on the left side, and the first dot in the (heart) partial are pointing in the wrong direction:

And in this person’s “love”, the (heart) partial is not even completed:

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FYI, the correct partial in is , not . When the characters are done correctly, means “family”.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

"Forever Protector of Old Ladies"

Perhaps the character in the red circle is a Japanese phonetic translation, but there is no character in Chinese vocabulary has and combined together. When they are separated, the character on the left has multiple meanings depends on the context. It usually means “dusk” or “evening”. The character on the right means “female”.

In Chinese, it could either mean “evening woman” (prostitute? call girl? escort?) or “old woman” (dying woman?), since people always associate sunset and dusk with old age.

The top two characters on his back are (to protect, to guard) and (eternal). Therefore his tattoo would mean “[to] forever protect evening/old/dying woman” in Chinese.

It would be great if he actually works as a call girl’s body guard or in a nursing home taking care of dying old ladies.

Here is another screw up by the same tattoo studio. (hell) is missing a dot. Rock on, you moron.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005


is the Chinese version of English word "mommy". In this tattoo, the second character has been rotated 90 degrees clockwise.

Related: J. D. of CBS' Rockstar and Burger King's ice cream cone cover.

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Friday, September 23, 2005


I got an email from one concerned reader about his kanji tattoo for “destroy”. Along in the email, he has provided a link to one of the companies that sells the tattoo flash where his tattoo came from.

(screenshot, original site)

What the character really meant was not "destroy", but "puppet" or "dummy"!

I was overwhelmed about the number of misleading translations and errors they had on their website. It is obvious that people ran that website did not understand Chinese or Japanese. They should have consulted with someone before posting misleading product on their site. This is a blunt display of unethical business practice.

When people get sick from eating at unsanitary restaurants, they could file complains with the food safety branch of the government. What would you do when you have gibberish tattooed on your body?

Update: Tattoo By Design, the company I have mentioned above, has emailed me with this reply:

"Our translations are carried out by qualified translators. All images in the 'rate by tattoo' and 'library' sections are submitted either by users or by artists and are not done by us. I have seen many poor and wrong translations myself submitted in the galleries but they are not available for printing and are examples of what people have had done or sketched up and are not examples of our work." (original email)

It is also interesting to point out the pages mentioned in my original posting have now became "members only". (It has always been "members only")

Update 2: Johnny has pointed out more errors on that site.

(screenshot, original site)

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Thursday, September 22, 2005


is the Chinese phonetic translation of "Derek" and its variants "Dereck" or "Derrick". Too bad the middle character is upside down.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bad Fortune

The last place I would expect to see Chinese errors would be inside the fortune cookies. 云吞食品公司 (Wonton Food Inc.) has found a way to make my nightmare come true.

Both Erik of Mandarin Tools and I had fortune notes with incorrect Chinese. I don’t care about the lucky numbers, nor the cheap Yoda-like Engrish pep-talks printed on the note, but I do care about the other side – Learn Chinese.


Mine (shown above) was not as entertaining as what Erik got:

The Chinese pinyin is correct for “pot sticker”, but the printed Chinese 罐屠夫 is something completely different. is a type of ceramic container, similar to a jar. 屠夫 is butcher.

Shame on you, Wonton Food Inc. of Brooklyn, NY 11206!

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Monday, September 19, 2005

"Not to Forget"

is a common Chinese phrase that meant "do not forget unforgettable". Yet, "Mr. Alzheimers" over here still managed to forget the important dot in the partial.

Oh, the irony...

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"Life" Mirrored

If you managed to get done correctly on the arm, why couldn't you do the same with ?!

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"Exotic Atmosphere"

I really hope this was just a photo error, but I doubt it. If they are done correctly, 調 would mean "exotic atmosphere".

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Follow Up: Does This Say "Love"?


Reader Kitsune has emailed me the follow up with New Tribe Tattoo after she sent them a letter stating the mistake(s) they have done. The diplomatic exchange ends with New Tribe Tattoo’s final statement:

“Hey, here's a portion of the flash sheet [shown above] that this design was taken from, written out by an Asian gentleman. We do not read or write the language and we do warn clients to have it verified BEFORE getting it tattooed. We tattoo kanji in good faith, but like I said, we do not speak the language... It is the customer's responsibility before they put it on their body, no? If you want, you can post this page to that forum [Hanzi Smatter] for others to see. We also have the full set available for viewing in the shop!”

Personally I am curious about the identity of the calligrapher, also known as the “Asian Gentleman”.

The moral of the story: Buyer Beware.

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First Female Extremely Hand?


First of all, this tattooed phrase is complete gibberish. It does not have any significant meaning in neither Chinese nor Japanese. They are four randomly chosen characters. The first character does not even exist in neither Chinese nor Japanese vocabulary; it was made to mimic the Chinese characters.

Plus, the calligraphy is absolutely terrible. The brush strokes' widths are inconsistent, which shows neither the tattooist nor the client had any idea about what proper Chinese or Japanese calligraphy should look like.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blood Sweat Tear

It seems every time my buddy Shannon Larratt updates the BME's Kanji tattoo gallery, there are always some fools showing off their poorly done tats. Sometimes the same mistake on one tattoo reappears on someone else, as if it is some kind of infectious disease.

This guy wanted "blood sweat tear" on his arm. I am curious if the extra red dot in (sweat) was intentionally placed there for dramatic effect or tattooist's carelessness. The last character (tear) is missing two strokes, one in right upper corner and one in the right lower corner.

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Monday, September 12, 2005


Many Asian countries use squatting type toilets, where the user squat over a water trench and water would wash the bio-mass down into the septic tank. These types of toilets in China are called (feces trench) or 尿 (urine trench).

The character may also mean “tank”, “trough”, and “groove” depends on context.

I had a good laugh when a reader emailed in his friend’s tattoo (see above) and said his friend wanted “tank” (military type, not the toilet kind) on him because he liked military tanks and he is a big guy.

By the way, “tank” (military type) in Chinese is 坦克 or 戰車, and 戦車 in Japanese.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Tiger, According to the Flash Book

The character shown in the photo is far from (tiger). Since it was shown in the tattoo template book, then it must be correct, rignt?


Another one bites the dust, I mean needle.

Tattooed Twits

Thanks to everyone for emailing me about Hanzi Smatter been featured in October 2005 issue of STUFF Magazine.


tiangotlost at gmail dot com

Thursday, September 8, 2005

The English word “screw” bears many meanings include “a rod-shaped piece with a spiral groove and a slotted or recessed head designed to be inserted into material by rotating (as with a screwdriver ) and used for fastening pieces of solid material together”, and in vulgar slang, “an act of sexual intercourse”.

The slang term “screw this” usually has meaning equivalent to “forget about it”. Unfortunately English slang often does not direct translate very well contextually into Chinese or Japanese.

This young man probably wanted to express his angst of “screw this” in Chinese (), yet did not have the patience to verify if the contextual translation was correct or not. His tattoo literally means “insert screw-nail here”, which is something that comes with furniture assembly instruction.

Or he could be a loyal employee of IKEA corporation.


Anyone who has ever stepped into a Chinese restaurant would know there are twelve Chinese zodiac. Apparently in the world this guy is living in, there are only nine. One of the zodiac has then replaced with “leopard” () and the rest are random mirrored characters mixed with Chinese and Japanese. Of course, he did not believe his friends when they pointed them out to him, until now...

Tuesday, September 6, 2005


I don't know whether it was the client or tattooist's idea to give a little "artistic flare". After all, who wants just a plain boring "healthy" to be tattooed in English? Unfortunately, they have done a pretty bad job and the tattooed character is missing several strokes.

Monday, September 5, 2005


This "Respect" poster is for sale at various online stores. Both characters are poorly written. The top character is missing a horizontal stroke in the partial, and both top two strokes are suppose to be stand alone. The bottom character is missing its partial.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Fake Zodiacs

Several years ago, this young man went to a tattoo shop in Germany and wanted zodiacs of his mother, sister and himself in Chinese characters to be tattooed on his back. He was very proud of it.

One friend of his has always thought the tattooed characters are fake and then sent a photo of it to a multi-lingual translation service. The translators could not figure out what exactly are those characters. Eventually, they have concluded the characters are gibberish that only mimicked Chinese and Japanese style of characters.

When I first saw this photo, the characters looked similar to some Chinese characters, but none of them are for zodiac.