Sunday, May 4, 2008

What is it?

This photo was posted in BME's gallery on April 17, 2008 with caption of "poem".

However, I have no idea what it suppose to be.

Please feel free to comment if you know what it is.


  1. My first thoughts were that in Hiragana the first one *could* be "nu" (ぬ) or "mi" (み) and the second one *could* be "yo" (よ) and the third one looks like it maybe could have a "su" in it with some other junk but...yeah...

    I won't even guess at the last one.

    It's all very open to um...interpretation. Maybe that's how it's a poem?!

  2. pepperjackcandyMay 4, 2008 at 3:28 PM

    I have no clue about the language, if any, it's in. Could it be some kind of character-substitution cyper or something? Since there are four characters, and the word "poem" is four characters long.

  3. I have no idea what the last character is, but the rest looks like really messy hiragana. The first looks like either nu or o. The second is probably yo. The third... ho?? yu? with added scribbles. I don't know.

  4. I think it's highly likely that the bottom character is jiu 酒 and the second from the bottom is dian 店 which, if I'm guess right, means that if read from the bottom these two characters could be saying 酒店, hotel. I'm at least fairly confident about what I think is a 酒 because radical on the left really strikes me as the three-dots-water radical (三点水).

    The second from the top looks to me like the character qian, 欠, which itself means "owe" or "lack" but which is more commonly seen as a radical in other characters like 欢 and 次.

    The last character looks to me like the word for "ball" or "globe," 球. The radical on the left is sort of scribbled like I've seen many Chinese people scribble the radical/character 王 and the right side looks a lot like 求.

    And that's my contribution to this Hanzi/Kanji "ink blot" interpretation test.

  5. Looks a bit like hentaigana to me.

  6. The third one looks like "square root of 1/2".

  7. I think Anon, above, is correct. Looks like hentaigana to me too

    but I really think she's a math major and it's a trigonometric function

    Just sine on the line, please


  8. It appears to me to be an incorrectly written hiragana "mi", followed by an incorrectly written hiragana "ma", followed by a square route of 1/2, and perhaps the artist sneezed while tattooing the last bit.

  9. Looks like someone's attempt at "grass writing," a kind of "cursive" Japanese.
    The first is definitely "na" (な), see the cross on the left and the loop on the southeast.
    The rest, well...
    Maybe "ma" (ま) for the second, in which case the word is "nama", meaning "raw", like raw fish or raw puppy meat.
    Someone mentioned the bottom looks like 酒, and なま酒 (nama-zake) would mean "raw sake" (a delicious beverage, i might add), but that doesn't take into account the third mystery character.
    now i just want to drink.

  10. なま酒海?
    A sea full of namazake?

  11. I'm never good at making sense of an old kanji, hentaigana or manyogana piece. People are trying to make me read Japanese (or even Chinese) wall scores, and pictures with ancient and obsolete cursive variants and I have a hard time explaining that the changes in the language made these incomprehensible.

    Anyone seen Alan Siegrist around? Maybe he can explain.

  12. Hi Ulas,

    All I can say is that I share your pain. I sometimes get asked to read old and handwritten Japanese and I have a hard time too, because I did not study it formally.

    I can only agree with the others that this is probably hentaigana [変体仮名]. I think the last character is [wo], derived from the character 越, but I cannot read any of the others. See this page.


  13. chars 1, 2, 4:
    存尔 浦

    the third character is 水 plus 寸 plus 口, not a real word

    it's pretty obviously chinese writing if you're chinese, that's just what messy handwriting looks like. phrase makes no sense, though

  14. haha, this looks like fun.
    I'm currently studying a little caoshu (Chinese grass/cursive script). Although hentaigana is based on Chinese grass script, I'm going by the assumption that these are not. I'm not discounting it though, but I just have a gut feeling.
    Thing is, traditionally, grass script has developed into a disorganised mess of many variations. Usually, reading it requires context, knowledge of possible variant forms, and a lot of patience. There has been an attempt at standardising caoshu into what's called biaozhucaoshu, but still not everyone follows that either. My teacher does. When I copied this down and him, he helped figure out one character, but because this is not standard caoshu, you really need context, and 4 words is hardly anything!

    I found this interesting, and took a long hard look at it, taking into account non-standard caoshu, and even the possibility of non-traditional caoshu. Thing is, one form can take the place of many components, but here is the best I can come up with.

    first word:
    枝 技 放
    欠 见 贝 尔
    请 清 倩
    補 捕 梅

    Anyway, it's not limited to these possibilities of course!

    So, what can we make of this?
    枝欠倩梅? (The branch is missing a pretty plum)
    That's the best I can do. haha!

    3 drops of water is never written like some are assuming in the last word, unless whoever originally wrote this (not the tattooist!) is really feeling crazy, but i don't think even crazy-grass (kuangcao) allows for that.

    Anyway, I'm no expert, and I still have a lot to learn, but I just find this quite interesting :)

  15. Just want to make a corrective note on my previous comment (in case I get bashed by a caoshu expert!), it is quite unlikely that the first word has 支 as a component, as 支 is written entirely differently. I only chose that because, quite frankly, I can't think of any better. My teacher even said that that word is the most baffling (because of that extra stroke(pie) on the top/middle right, which makes it not a word at all to him. :)

  16. It could be a different kind of stupid "Asian font" thing to me: I see "K-I-N-G".

  17. While I have no idea about meaning, I am good at distorted pattern matching. Can anyone make a poem out of 起 者 路 能 ?

  18. Looks to me like a pseudo-"alphabet" font, especially the presence of four characters. I can't see why "poem" would require four characters, even though I only know Mandarin, not Japanese.

  19. Definitely not hiragana; although, hiragana was developed off of the cursive scripts, so they often look similar.

    Some of the more traditional folks at work were scratching their heads over this. I would have to say that we are dealing with some poorly written versions of characters.

    One guy suggested 森 for the first character, but my sense was different. I pulled out my 書体辞典 and can't see anyway to reconcile the first character. The stray hash mark on the right just doesn't belong. The purpose of cursive is to make characters easy to write quickly, so you should be able to follow the path of the brush easily. That last mark is counter-flow and follows a stop.

    The second character could be 字 or a bad 守 or 寺. The third character is a well-written 清. I have written that one hundreds of times and recognized it immediately. The last character is probably 酔, but the left side radical is very strangely written.

    A quick internet search turned up no such poem or yojijukugo, but there is a bar named 清酔. Maybe I'll take the train over there now.

  20. it looks like half-baked hentaigana, in the form of きよやを - gibberish, pure gibberish.

    My hentaigana comes from

  21. I really think the last character could be 满, that was my first thought - 酒 is possible but sillier.

    If I had to guess all four I'd say maybe 陈,欠,店,满?Still makes no sense!

    I actually kind of like this tattoo. It's like someone wrote 草书 on their arm in black biro, nicer than a lot of the ugly chunky disasters you report here :)

  22. I'm a Japanese. My first impression about this photo was "Wow, someone's signature was tattooed!"

    Well, I thought the name would be "藤原清輔" or "森原清輔" but when I wrote 「藤」 and 「森」 in cursive writing, it didn't look like the one in the photo and when I take account of the strokes, I can't think of any other possible Japanese kanji.

    So, I think those characters (at least first character) are Chinese and I have no clue about the language.

    Anyway, for me, it does look like some oyaji signed his name on the person's skin with a fountain pen!

  23. Looks like なまは何 or みまは何... but that doesn't make any sense LOL

  24. I think it looks like ne  ね then yo よ followed by square root of something and finally, a quiggly. This leads me to believe this person loves the rapper Ne-Yo, math, and interpretive art.

  25. The last two characters are definitely 清辅 - sounds like a seisuke or kiyosuke or genre. A sign, maybe.