Sunday, December 23, 2012

from: Bill R. 
to: "" 
date: Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 11:16 AM 
subject: tattoo mystery 


My name is Bill and I am writing to you from Florida. 

Recently, I've met a lady that has many tattoos. I asked her about one of them, and she embarrassingly admitted to me that having gotten it quite a long time ago (being her first one), she does not remember what it says. It is apparently a phrase of some sort written in kanji. 

I immediately recognized the first symbol as "tao", or "do" (the way/path/road), but the others are unfamiliar to me. Clearly, with So many kanji in the world, it is daunting to try to find them all. I've attached a photo of the mystery tattoo if you could be so kind as to help in translating it. 

Thank you very much, and I hope your day finds you well, 


Another sucker of the gibberish font.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

from: Amanda S.
date: Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 2:46 PM
subject: Fast and Foolish?

Hi Tian, 

My brother recently got a tattoo that he believe translates to "fast and furious." 

Is this the case at all?

Thank you!
Yes, it does say "fast" and "foolish".
from: Diego S.
date: Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 7:37 PM 
subject: What does this mean?

Hi dude, I don't know how to post a new image in your blog, so I'm sending this e-mail, I hope you can help me with this. I really need to know what is the meaning of this tattoo.

Hope you can help me...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

from: Brian T. 
to: "" 
date: Thu, Nov 22, 2012 at 2:27 PM 
subject: Trust in God Tattoo? 

My brother in law thinks this says "trust in God". Can you confirm this? 


typically is used to describe deity, not necessarily the Judea-Christian sense of "God", which is 上帝.

信用 is not "trust", rather creditworthiness along the line of trying to get a loan from bank.

Monday, November 19, 2012

from: JK
to: ""
date: Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 9:09 PM
subject: Tattoo meaning if any?

I got this tattoo 17 years ago in NYC. Tattoos were not totally legal in the city yet and I was underage. Internet was not in full swing either. The tattoos were supposed to have read, "Strength and Courage." I'm sure they don't. LoL! If you could tell me what the characters mean (if anything), I would appreciate it.



小畜 "little animal" and 大過 "big mistake".

Saturday, September 22, 2012

from: Fabiano B.
date: Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 11:24 AM 
subject: Chinese tatoo?

Can you translate this tattoo, please. Thank you.

It is absolute meaningless gibberish based on this font!

Another gullible individual with "THEO" on his arm.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

from: Boris
date: Sat, Aug 4, 2012 at 12:37 PM
subject: Funny tatoo

Hi Tian!

Just saw this photo of an acquaintance --

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the "Way of the Firebird" tatoo spelled the wrong way round? Just wanted to let you know so you may have a new addition for your Hanzismatter Website.

Kind regards,


Although the image is reflection taken from a mirror, 火鳥道 is indeed in wrong vertical orientation.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

from: Gabriel D. 
to: "" 
date: Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 8:12 AM 
subject: suspicious looking tattoo 

Hello, Tian. 

I've been reading your HanziSmatter blog for a while now and I've always found it equally amusing and educational. A little while back one of my friends has gotten his ankle tattooed as you can see in the attached image. 

He said it is something related to the concept of "family", but that the tattoo artist himself didn't really make it clear what it meant. 

Could you perhaps help? 

Best regards, 



Typical "family" is 家庭. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

from: Laura M. 
date: Sun, Jul 15, 2012 at 5:54 AM 
subject: A youtuber's tattoo 

I was watching some tattoo videos on youtube, and this lady seems to think this tattoo is her star-sign, Aries. What does it actually mean? She also joked people say it means "egg fried rice", so it will be amusing if it's actually something along those lines. 

absolutely love your blog, by the way <3

It is absolute meaningless gibberish based on this font!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

from: Aaron S.
date: Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 2:24 PM
subject: Friend's Tattoo

Here is a pic of a friend's tattoo. She thinks it means, "I am a Goddess." I have already had it translated once but I thought I would get a second opinion just to be sure.



It would've said goddess, 女神, only if was not split into two vertical parts.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

from: Sarah
date: Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 8:02 PM
subject: My tattoo

I found your blog randomly, looking for someone to help me figure out
what my tattoo says.
I've had it for about 11 years.
I was young and stupid. I plan on covering it soon, but I would really
like to get your opinion,

I was told it meant "strength"...but then someone else told me it says
"Small animal" or "Little tornado".

Thank you so much! I appreciate it!


Due to tattoo's poor calligraphy, it is difficult to determine if it is intended to be a single character, (to foster) or double character phase, (small animal).  

Either case, it is definitely not "strength".

Sunday, May 20, 2012

from: Lauren E. 
date: Fri, Apr 27, 2012 at 9:18 PM 
subject: Translate

Can you translate this tattoo

"Hand flow"?!

Since the tattoo's location is above breast cleavage or buttocks crack, this could also be "L" & "R" based on the gibberish Asian font chart.  

How useful!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

from: Joey L. 
date: Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 3:22 PM 
subject: Lost in translation 

Can you please translate. 

Not another “gibberish tattoo”!

Obviously it’s supposed to be JOEY from the handy-dandy cheat sheet to the bogus gibberish font.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

from: Alan Siegrist
date: Fri, Apr 13, 2012 at 11:52 PM
subject: Woman tree

Hi Tian, Hope you are still enjoying Austria.

Have you seen this tattoo?

The character is actually the Japanese katakana (ho) not (ki, tree). The mistaken use of ‘ho’ is quite unfortunate considering the woman as both subject and canvas. And yes, the hip-hop slang meaning of ‘ho’ (whore) is known in Japan and written with the same character.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Back in 2005, I saw a photo in Flickr titled "Cindy, a beautiful canvas."

Fast forward to 2012, Dr. Victor Mair met the young lady in person:

So I asked Cindy what she thought the tattooed symbols running down her neck and spine meant. She replied:

The bottom two were supposed to be success… then respect.

Oh well. Works either way. It is what it is. You can put whatever name you want.

Queen OF The World is what I prefer.

I followed up by asking Cindy what she thought the second, very unusual, symbol meant. She said, "Oh, that's just a cross for Jesus."

Tentatively, this is what I had to work with:

1. mǔ 母 ("mother")

2. zǐ 子 ("child"), or perhaps some kind of cross

3. wù 物 ("thing, object")

4. guì 贵 ("precious; expensive")

With considerable effort, I could get that to mean "Mother and child are precious things." But I was not satisfied with this interpretation, both because of my uncertainty over the second symbol and because it required me to accept a strained interpretation of the final two characters.

(Continue reading at Language Log)