Thursday, June 17, 2010

from: Alexandria C.
date: Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 2:24 AM
subject: tattoo translation help please...

I heard about your blog from a friend and decided to check it out cause i am worried about a tattoo i have personally. It is supposed to mean " live for today" but i would really appriciate it if you could help in translating the picture of it attached. Thanks do much for your time!


Alan and I saw tattoo template of this for sale back in 2007:

生現 “Live For Today”

As is, this gibberish means nothing in Japanese or at least nothing like “live for today” and I don’t think it means anything in Chinese either. The only meaning I can guess is that if it were written 生きて現れる, this would mean “to show up alive” or “turn up alive” as if someone thought dead had appeared alive. Anyway, it sounds pretty spooky, like seeing a zombie!

I think the person who made this up just looked in a dictionary for the word for “to live” and a word that means something like “now” and thought you could stick them together to make “live for today.”

It doesn’t work like that.


  1. I guess someone really did go out and get that silly tattoo from Bullseye (or somewhere equally dodgy) permanently engraved on their hide. I hate to say "I told you so" but I did!

  2. On the other hand, 現生 is a valid Japanese word. Read as "gensei", it means "extant; still alive; not extinct"; for example, 現生人類 refers to the modern human spicies. If you read it as "gen'name", it means "hard cash".

  3. Maybe they intended it to be read bottom to top (BTT). There is of course the rather common word 現生 which essentially means living in the present.

    Here is an entry in a dictionary:

  4. What I gather from the two anonymous posters above me, is that they took an expression meaning "presently living", and thought that by reversing the order, it will mean "living in the present". That's hilarious!

  5. when meaning "cash", it should be gen'nama not gen'name. Usually written as 現ナマ tho

  6. I think 一期一会 would make a better tattoo for the kind of meaning she seems to want to portray.
    I don't understand why people get tattoos that they can't even understand themselves? Madness.

  7. 今を生きる is the closest phrase in Japanese to the intended meaning "Live for Today" and is incidentally the Japanese title of Dead Poet's Society, the film famous for the phrase "Carpe diem. Seize the day."

  8. I have had this tattoo since 1995, when I drunkenly picked it off a parlor wall, being under the impression that it meant "seize the day". I'm actually just glad to finally know it doesn't mean something really offensive or insulting. Thanks for the site.