Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another set of Gibberish English-Chinese Font

Alan and I have discovered another set of gibberish English-Chinese font that many people are getting tattooed with. We have compiled this handy-dandy decoder card for those who want to be entertained deciphering gibberish tattoos:

Decoder Card for Gibberish English-Chinese Tattoo Font

Using decoder card, this tattoo below is "SABINA", in gibberish of course:


Update: Nov. 22, 2009 - Alan has created an updated version of Decoder Card:



  1. At first I thought the card would have simplified and traditional Chinese, but apparently it's simplified Chinese and (simplified) Japanese instead.

    You can see the difference particularly well in "2", where the bottom character is quite a bit more simplified (this is one that Japan simplified but China didn't); you might also be able to see the difference in "," (Japanese dropped a line in their simplification).

    For cases where both simplified, but differently, consider "N" and "x"; for a case where both simplified identically, "p".

    The exceptions (where traditional characters rather than simplified Japanese ones are used) are "8" and "?", where Japanese uses the same shape as simplified Chinese.

  2. @pne,

    You are very observant. I made up this handy-dandy decoder card just for my own benefit.

    I know Japanese but very little Chinese and still have a hard time reading simplified Chinese. The font and the tattoos are in simplified Chinese, so I added the equivalent Japanese characters as an aid to help me read and search.

    In some places where the simplified Chinese and Japanese are identical, I added the traditional Chinese forms instead of the Japanese forms. Perhaps I should have been a little more consistent by adding the traditional form for "p" for example.

    Another thing that could be improved is that the English letters are just repeated on the second line, instead of appearing in the actual Chinese font used for the tattoos, which is how it should be.

    Maybe I'll do up a better decoder card and send it to Tian later.


  3. Wow! They even made punctuation marks and special characters. I'm looking forward to the other character sets like *ahem* Turkish, French, German (though ß is already there), Scandinavian, Icelandic, Slavic Latin, Spanish, Portuguese etc. What's it, we don't deserve any gibberish?

  4. Perhaps I should have been a little more consistent by adding the traditional form for "p" for example.

    "p" = Simplified Chinese & Japanese = 学, "xue2" in Chinese and "gaku" in Japanese [via various Chinese dialects] = 學 in Traditional Chinese.

  5. Traditional Chinese for "J" = 舉
    Traditional Chinese for "M" = 來
    Traditional Chinese for "N" = 樂
    Traditional Chinese for "x" = 圓
    Traditional Chinese for ">" = 歡
    I'm surprised they didn't use the more ancient character for ( = 旾 as a simplified version of 春!
    Traditional Chinese in Kaishu for "9" = 海,with two dots in the middle of 母, not the Caoshu form used by Japanese: with one vertical stroke.

  6. Have you figured out any pattern to this gibberish? As far as I can tell, they took a basic set and just started throwing darts at it until the character set was filled. KF

  7. Thanks; this could be a fun game in my tattoo-heavy city.

    That said, has anybody studied the causes of this phenomenon academically? I'm honestly curious why so many people deliberately get "cryptic" tattoos on parts of their bodies that are in constant public view. In fact, a classmate of mine had "acer palmatum" tattooed on her biceps. When I asked her what was the significance of Japanese Maples to her (I'm a gardening enthusiast and recognized the binomial), she got inexplicably offended that I would even ask and seemed shocked that I knew what her tattoo referred to. And of course, she didn't answer the question.

    I guess as an un-tattooed person, I will never understand the mindset.

  8. @kiz
    Have you figured out any pattern to this gibberish?

    Good question. I was curious about this too.

    My Chinese is not too strong so I am not too sure, but although the order of characters seems to be random, I seem to have found a few Chinese phrases strewn about in this jumble.

    Some of them are:
    (=Merry Christmas!)

    (=Happy New Year!)

    (=Happy Easter!)


    (=Happy Birthday!)

    There is also:
    (=international agreement)

    I also find a number of names of Chinese cities and countries:

    天津市 Tianjin
    上海市 Shanghai
    北京市 Beijing
    南京市 Nanjing
    愛国 Ireland
    加国 Canada
    柬国 Cambodia
    美国 United States
    佛国 France
    德国 Germany
    西国 Spain
    中華民国 Republic of China

    It is also almost possible to write:

    中華人民共和国 People’s Republic of China

    But the character 共 is oddly absent.

    There are also a number of words that seem to refer to holding an event like a party, meeting or banquet:

    宴会 banquet
    主办 (主辦) sponsor
    举办 hold, run
    请帖 invitation
    请柬 invitation card
    参加 participate
    开会 (開会) hold a meeting

    So I guess someone made up this font for some purpose possibly related to holding some sort of event.

    My pet theory is that someone needed to print banners in Chinese but did not have a Chinese computer system. With this font, printing Chinese banners is possible within the very limited character set.

    But then someone made the font publicly available and now people are using it to get gibberish Chinese tattoos.


  9. Oh my God -- Alan, I think you are right. Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, indeed! Someone found a one-page glossary of common phrases and country names!!

  10. Years ago I put together a font called "Scrapbook Chinese" that I intended to be useful for scrapbookers. (It seemed like a good idea at the time?) I had it hosted on my own site on Comcast, along with a key explaining what all the characters were and some ways that they could be combined. Somebody put the font on fontspace (without the key), with the disclaimer, "random Chinese characters for decorative purposes; not intended as a language font." And Comcast discontinued their hosting service about a year ago, so the key isn't even online anywhere now. The font has apparently been downloaded almost 50,000 times. So far I haven't seen it pop up in any of your gibberish examples, but it wouldn't surprise me at all. I picture all these poor people about there with this font and no clue what to do with it. (I suppose I should get that key back up somewhere... and maybe fontspace would post a link to it.)