Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Stubborn Italian

About a week ago, I got an email from an Italian named Giacomo Polonijo asking for translation help. He wanted to get a tattoo of three words “Consciousness, Coherence, Balance” and hoping I could verify the translation for him.

Two days later, he sent me the design he is planning to use.

I was horrified by the poor penmanship as well as the missing partials in the characters; I informed him that whoever designed his tattoo probably only had primary school education in Chinese or Japanese.

To illustrate my point, I attached the correct characters (written in red) back to him for comparison.

In an immediate follow-up email, I strongly urge him not to get the characters tattooed.

Unfortunately, I have the feeling that he is too stubborn to take my advice seriously.

C’est la vie.

T-shirts Giveaway sponsored by Hanzismatter and


  1. Laurie aka WillyWopMarch 26, 2006 at 7:51 PM

    isn't it ironic that he wants “Consciousness, Coherence, Balance” when he is not conscious of the fact that those kanji (i call them kanji cuz i'm a japanese speaker) LACK coherence (ok, theyre a *little* coherent) and lack balance (it's obvious that they have no concept of stroke order!)

  2. Never mind that the meanings are wrong too, on the whole... What a twat.

  3. I suppose some of his stubornness may come from that fact that he had decided in advance that these were the things he wanted to have tattooed onto his body for the rest of his life. God knows why -- I don't see why writing them in English or even Sanskrit wouldn't work just as well, except that possibly the 1-symbol-per-word system is a good space saver.

  4. I hate when people ask you a question and then argue with your answer! Especially when you're trying to help! argh!

  5. After reading the e-mail thread, I get the feeling that Giacomo's alleged stubborn-ness comes from the fact that he thinks that you are nixing his choice of characters. Thus, his apparent refusal to accept what you're telling him.

    From what I can tell, Tian, you're not nixing his choice of characters, but rather the penmanship of his prototype. Correct?

    Perhaps if you pointed out that it was the way the characters were written that is horrible, not his choice, he might catch on.

    To be frank, telling him that the handwriting is bad and that the author probably isn't well-educated, doesn't help him in the slightest.

    Instead, if you had explained first that the handwriting of those characters was awful, and then indicated to him their meanings (if you were also objecting to the meanings), he probably would have caught on immediately.

  6. I'm kind of seconding K here when ze says After reading the e-mail thread,[snip] Thus, his apparent refusal to accept what you're telling him.

    Suggest that he get references from people with tattoos with actual, artistic merit. Well, neat ones at any rate.

    Then he takes your version to them and has it done only if they can produce a draft which has the characters correctly written.

  7. I have to admit....

    I know many reasons why I should NOT get a tattoo with Chinese characters. Among the reasons, are:
    -I'm not Chinese
    -I'm well beyond the typical "tattoo-getting" age.

    On the other hand:
    -I live in Beijing
    -I speak a little Mandarin
    -I read a little Mandarin
    -I write a little Mandarin

    I'm tempted to get a little thing on my forearm that I can show to all the vendors in the "touristy" areas.

    (The pinyin version, without tone marks) it would say:

    "Wo bu shi you ke". (I am not a tourist.)

    Maybe on the other arm I could get: "Bu yao"?


    In defense of my silly thought to get the (not a tourist) tattoo...
    -I can actually write it myself (proper stroke order included),
    -I know what it should look like,
    -I can say it
    -If I ever leave China (not likely), then it would still be appropriate.

    If he's The Stubborn Italian, then I guess I'm The Silly American (Expat).

  8. The stubborn italian....

    yes i'm the guy who started all this trouble, i don't know if you'll get the chance to read this and personally
    it doesn'matter that much.

    Firstly I didn't mean to be rude, and if u think so, well sorry

    Secondly i've read yours comments thoroughly especially Tian answers to my e-mail and, probably to yours surprise, i had decided not to get the tatoo
    This shows that my stubborness is not as strong as you guys think, and i understand when i'm wrong.

    Anyway thanks for your comments cause i really do appreciate.


    PS: I've got an italian name but that doesn't mean that i am italian