Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Carlos Mencia Says "Get the Right Tattoo!"

Miara tipped me about during one of Carlos Mencia's monologues in season one of Mind of Mencia, Carlos has talked about people getting tattoos.

video: 3.35 MB windows media or YouTube
“…Let me get this straight, you got a tattoo in jail from a guy that has failed English and Spanish, but now he knows Chinese, is that what you telling me?

You have 26 letters in English and Spanish kicked his ass, but 1,300 characters in the Chinese language…

Are you retarded?! I can’t wait till this guy ends up in Chinatown and some Chinese guy goes: ‘oh, that is a beautiful tattoo, so you love to suck *bleep*…”
Having a tattooist who can't even spell words in English correctly to do your tattoo in another language would be a problem... It does sound like that person I recently got those angry comments from...


  1. The clip was funny, but a little too true.

    That tattoo "artist" who keeps threatening you sounds like a real credit to the industry. I have two half-sleeves and have never seen that kind of attitude out of a tattoo artist that I would trust to put permanant marks on my body. Forget him or report him, he's just a douchebag.

  2. What do Chinese people do when they forget how to write a character? Substitute a similar sounding one? Fall back to zhuyin?

  3. slyecho,

    they look for it in the dictionary.

  4. they look for it in the dictionary.

    What if they have to write something in a hurry and don't have a dictionary handy?

  5. Just like how the Americans would ask "how is the *word* spelled?", in this case, they would ask someone "how is this *character* written?"

  6. they would ask someone "how is this *character* written?"

    Yes, I can see that. But let's say someone hears an unusual or unfamiliar personal or place name on the radio or TV, and wants to write something down as a "place holder" before going to the dictionary or asking someone the correct characters, what would one do? Guess? Use pinyin?

  7. Alan,

    There was an article publish not long ago about the number of Chinese characters are frequently used. The conclusion was anyone who had primary or middle school education should be able to handle that.

    The Chinese education system is very brutal, many children could (or forced to) remember thousands of characters before they graduate from primary school.

    There are over 1.4 billion people in China, it is pretty hard to find a place where there is no one else.

    If there is a case like you mentioned, I would assume the person would have to write down the description of the term or character he/she wants to write, but it would be a very rare occassion.

    Pinyin are useful to help people pronounce the characters, but they do not have any association with certain definitions, especially there are some characters share the same pronouciation.

  8. Tian,

    what are putting a character with a similar sound and then throwing a mouth 口 radical on it?

  9. Not *such* a silly question, especially if it came from the perspective of Japanese; if we forget an unusual kanji when writing Japanese, we can just 'fill in' phonetically with kana and look the character up later. I'm sure many Japanese would wonder what the Chinese do in those circumstances, too.
    Forgetting characters one has used since childhood is rare but, like forgetting the name of someone you know, it can happen - the other day I personally witnessed a university-educated native Japanese speaker forget how to write 肌 - the look of open-mouthed disbelief on his face as he put pen to paper to write this simple common character and realised that it was going nowhere was priceless.
    But I guess if I *really* want to write a character and I'm not too sure, I do the same as I would with an English spelling I can't remember: write it incorrectly. So long as I can read it, no problem! ;-)

  10. if we forget an unusual kanji when writing Japanese, we can just 'fill in' phonetically with kana and look the character up later. I'm sure many Japanese would wonder what the Chinese do in those circumstances, too.

    Yes, exactly. If we forget how to spell something in English, we can make a best guess at the spelling and look it up later.

    I am just curious about how a Chinese person would do this.

  11. I'm not Chinese, but I do write with Chinese characters, so this is based on my experience...

    Basically, the characters are not all individual and unique shapes, but are made up of one or more smaller parts and strokes that are often repeated in different characters, and often have their own sort of meaning. Writing a character could be looked at as remembering how to 'spell' the different parts.

    Some of those parts are there to indicate meaning, but many are there to suggest the sound - the sound may then remind you of the shapes. Admittedly it's not perfect, but then neither is English spelling.

    Most characters have a mixture of both meaning and sound parts, so it's very unlikely that you would forget everything of a character that you know, but only lose track of the details, much like English. And you can make a stab at 'spelling' the strokes of a character; although you might not get all the parts 100% correct, you can probably make an approximation that will be readable at least to yourself. (Yes, I have a bad memory and plenty of experience of this!)

  12. Forgetting characters isn't particularly uncommon at all, especially for Japanese natives. Japanese aren't so good at kanji to begin with and the inception of computers has only promoted this. Writing kanji in Japanese and being able to spell in English are uncannily similar. Think of all the people (especially younger) you know who can't spell worth a damn (or just check out blogs around the net)...pretty much the same situation with Japanese.

  13. I saw that a while ago. That was one of my favorite moments. He did screw up on the 1300 part. A little more like.... More than that.

  14. Those interested in this sub-topic might want to look at page 30 (Exhibit 2) of the following document about Chinese writing reform:


    I just happened to find it while looking around at http://www.pinyin.info/.

    You will notice that at least this one particular Chinese person had substituted pinyin for three of the 13 characters on a shopping list. I can only assume that the list writer had forgotten how to write those three characters.

    This anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that Chinese people do in fact occasionally forget how to write characters and use pinyin as a phonetic substitute.

  15. A lot of times when you ask people how to write something, they do the "invisible writing on hand" thing. Entertaining to watch, but as a barely literate banana I always have to ask them to redo with pen and paper.

    Going the other direction, what's irritating about most Chinese textbooks for English speakers is that NOWHERE do they teach you how to use a freaking dictionary (i.e. for looking up unfamiliar characters by stroke count or radical).

  16. Well the best you could do when you're alone is to try to figure out the radical (the little parts that may be words themselves) and see if you could piece together something.
    路 basically means road. It has 2 parts, 足 and 各 ("foot" and "each"). So you could try and figure it out by parts, either using the meaning of the parts or the sound of the parts. It's pretty obvious that 路 doesn't sound anything liek the parts, but 足 is related in meaning.
    It's kinda hard to explain. As a HK Chinese who haven't had the need to write for 10+ years (I was in the HK education system til Grade 6), I have had great difficulty to write characters. If not for online dictionaries where I could guess which English words would have the Chinese word I need, I wouldn't be able to learn how to type Chinese. For me, the problem of writing is much more difficult than the problem of reading; hence, I rarely make mistakes in identifying the words, but I would have lots of difficulty in writing them.
    But yeah, I may have used English as a placeholder for words that I can't write, hoping whoever is going to read them knows how to read English too. My notes are usually intended for my father, so that's not much of a problem.

  17. Anyone else notice that Carlos said there are "1,300 characters" in the Chinese language? Err...I think there are rather more than that!

    As a student of Chinese, when I forget a character, I either substitute pinyin or bopomofo. I am ashamed to admit that occasionally, if I must, I'll just take my best guess at how I think it's written, then fudge it up a bit with my pen and hope people think it was unintentional. It's a terrible thing to do, but...hey.

    In Taiwan, if someone can't ask how to write a forgotten character, I've seen people use not only guesswork, but also bopomofo. Occasionally on signs (most recently I noticed one on a placard at Fushoushan) a character will be rare enough that they'll print it with bopomofo as is done in kids' books.

    The education system may be rigorous, but is not uncommon for native speakers to occasionally forget how to write something. This is becoming more of a problem now as typing Chinese is more common than writing it by hand.