Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hanzi Vigilante Blogger

For the last two weeks of October, I was in Montreal, Canada. While I was there, a friend of mine has sent me link to a story published in the Vancouver Sun titled "More Skin, Less Ink" by Paula Brook.

The story is about people's regrets of their own tattoos. Of course with that, yours truly was mentioned.

I laughed so hard when I read the part where Ms. Brook referred me as:

Hanzi Vigilante Blogger

I am thinking about making some business cards with that title.

On the other hand, the term "vigilante blogger" makes me feel like the character with dual personalities of Edward Norton and Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Or, Jan and Peter in The Edukators (Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei).

The original Vancouver Sun's story is here, here is a pdf copy of it, and for those who are too lazy to read, mp3 version of the article are also available here and here.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Caressing Flaw

Two weeks ago, I got an email from another U. S. Navy recruiter (I really think U. S. Navy should present me some kind of honorary award for my service) requesting tattoo translation. This young recruit got what he thought was "MC" tattooed on his chest.

The two characters and are pronounced as "mo" and "ci" in Chinese. Perhaps that is where he or the tattooist got the correlation to "M" and "C".

However, the second character is missing a small vertical stroke. Ironically, the literal translation of the two characters is "caressing flaw".

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"This is a Tattoo" and "Fish Ball Soup"

It has been two years since I first started Hanzi Smatter. With almost 400 entries achieved here about poorly done tattoos, it is always interesting for me to receive emails from people who got humorous Chinese character tattoos.

The first one I got is from Andy Scott and his “This is a Tattoo” tattoo:


I just stumbled onto your site and I want to say that
hanzismatter.com is fantastic.

I've been living in China now for just over two years, whilst my speaking and listening isn't too bad, I cannot read or write more than a few characters. I too got a tattoo here in China, but luckily I have a endless resource here to make sure the words are correct. I attached it here.

It should say 'Zhe Shi Wen Shen' or 'This is a tattoo.' I get a lot of enjoyment creating a different meaning every time someone asks what it translates to. I haven't seen any English tattoo's here, but some of the phrases that are on clothing, menu's and other signs are just as amusing as some of the ones you have written about.

I'm sure there is some poor Chinese person out there with some poorly transcribed words inked onto their skin too. But, it's great that you are shedding light to the fact that language mistakes are made all over the world, not just in English. Though it's good for a laugh.


Andy Scott

The second one is from Mark Pulver, and he got "Fish Ball Soup" tattooed on his leg:


I thought you'd get a kick out of the story of a tat on my leg...

My other half and I have always found sites like engrish.com interesting, and especially Hanzi Smatter - we love seeing the mistakes you point out.

"What do you mean it says "Beef & Broccoli?? It's supposed to be Love & Happiness!"


We decided to invert the process... We figured that we would _actually_ get "beef & broccoli" inked, and then just tell people that it says "love & happiness". In the end, 99% of our friends and the people we meet would never know the difference, and we'd have a fun story to tell to those who tell us "ummm, did you know that..."

Yeah, we're goofy that way.

Since we were actually looking for beef & broccoli we went searching for Asian menus online - we figured that would be a good source for a valid translation. In the process we found http://mrhowontonhouse.com/ which offered up a LOT more than just B&B!

Now, being the head goofball, I noticed "fish ball soup" and glommed onto it REAL quick. On top of it, I came up with a back-story where I would tell people that the characters represent the last line of an old story that talks about love, happiness, relationships, children, all the things that have been held important for thousands of years by the Asian cultures. :)

With the symbols and a story in hand, I asked a friend of a friend of mine at work to verify the translation. He did and also re-wrote the characters to be clearer. I made a phone call to my tat guy and I was off to the ink shop. The end result is here:


I understand that the last character is loosely translated as "broth only" - I have an alternate writing where the last character is "with noodles" as well. :)

It's all in good fun... we don't mean anything rude or insulting by it, it's more about having fun with a poke back to the people that _don't_ do the research before they get tattoo's.

Keep up the fun!

Mark Pulver
"The Fish Ball Soup" guy

Saturday, October 7, 2006



My friend Alan Siegrist writes:

Hi Tian,

Just browsing bmezine’s kanji tattoo web pages can be entertaining indeed. I just noticed an astonishingly stupid Japanese tattoo:


It is supposed to be キンバリー, which is a reasonable Japanese equivalent of the name “Kimberly” but the stupid tattooist did it upside down!

And, since the text is vertical, the final ー should be oriented vertically instead of horizontally.

Kim should get her money back…

Thanks for your good work as always,