Hanzi Smatter
December 7, 2004 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Hanzi Smatter ???? Dedicated to the misuse of Chinese characters (Hanzi or Kanji) in Western culture... The problem is NOT that people are getting characters tattooed on them; it's that people who don't understand the characters are getting characters tattooed on them by other people who don't understand the characters. It is the equivalent of the “blind leading the blind”.
posted by Ljubljana (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry about the question marks. Looked okay in preview...
posted by Ljubljana at 12:31 PM on December 7, 2004

Oh ho ho good find. Now I can spend the rest of the day pointing and laughing.
posted by christin at 12:37 PM on December 7, 2004

Is this like the guy I saw who was pouring a new concrete foundation at a construction site, wearing a "Daddy's little Princess" T-shirt? I don't think the guy in question spoke any English...
posted by Balisong at 1:01 PM on December 7, 2004

My stoic, former tank driver, civil war zone paramedic mother doesn't joke around much, and doesn't like tatoos on her kids. So, when my brother secretly got his Chinese name tatooed on his arm, he consulted someone else about the characters (yes, we're Chinese, but Western born and raised). At a family barbeque a few months later, my mom saw the tat and exclaimed, "What the hell is that?" to which my bro replied that it was his name:

"No, it's not!"
"I don't even know what that says..."
"WHA??? It's supposed to be my name!"
"Noo...nonono... it doesn't make any sense... something like 'chicken feet'.
posted by Extopalopaketle at 1:06 PM on December 7, 2004

Getting on a plane in Tokyo we watched a not very smart looking guy asking around what exactly his new tat said on the back of his neck. My wife was pretty sure she should help him translate it, the fact that she didn't speak Japanese wouldn't have dissuaded her, as clearly he didn't either. She probably would have to if I hadn't convinced her that he won't believe her that the four characters represent "submissive bottom".
posted by Keith Talent at 1:11 PM on December 7, 2004

I have a friend who is the head chef at a fancy-pants Austin bistro. She got a tattoo all down her arm that she THOUGHT said "Head Chef." Turns out it said something like "Big policeman" or "Leader of the rulekeepers."

Oh well.
posted by pomegranate at 1:18 PM on December 7, 2004

Found that on hanzismatter.com

[This is good]
posted by soundofsuburbia at 1:37 PM on December 7, 2004

I met a girl at a bar once who THOUGHT she had "May You Live In Interesting Times" tattooed on her arm. But literal translation is fraught with dangers... unfortunately, she had used the wrong "may". Her tattoo now asked, "Can you or can you not live in interesting times?" I didn't have the heart to tell her.

She also had a tattoo of Picasso's bicycle-bullhead that went from shoulder to shoulder, which, I admit, was pretty creative in an allusive kind of way.
posted by growli at 1:39 PM on December 7, 2004

Very funny, thanks.

Now why would chinese characters appear correctly on preview, but not in the final result? I have to know, so I'll enter what I presume was intended in the FPP in different ways:

- just cut and paste: ???? (works on preview);
- using HTML entities: 一知半解 (the hex form 一 works on first preview, but decimal 一 doesn't)
- using a dictionary lookup (click through to see chars)

...because Hanzis Matter (as do other non iso-latin chars).
posted by Turtle at 1:42 PM on December 7, 2004

The 1988-era Bart Simpson/"eat my shorts" tat was bad enough. I'll stick to Suicide Girls.
posted by bardic at 2:15 PM on December 7, 2004

[slightly off-topic] 一知半解 is a great title, by the way. I looked up the meaning of the expression in English, and found sciolism, also a word I didn't know, meaning "Superficial knowledge; a superficial show of learning", from the Latin sciolus, "one who knows little", a smatterer. *recognition dawns* now that would make a good tattoo
posted by Turtle at 2:36 PM on December 7, 2004

There are some examples on that site. Why someone would get a tattoo'd in a language that they don't speak by someone who doesn't speak it either, is beyond me. The good news is that the majority of the people that will see their tattoo won't know what it means either.
posted by Juicylicious at 2:48 PM on December 7, 2004

Special characters on MeFi are translated from their entity code to the actual Unicode representation on preview. If you then push post characters which are not understood by the metafilter software are converted to "?"

If you wish to post a post with special characters, you need to type your post in a text editor first, paste it to the textbox, push preview, and see if you like the result. If you do, delete all the text in the metafilter textbox and re-insert the text from your text editor. Then just post your post.

posted by shepd at 4:25 PM on December 7, 2004

The problem is NOT that people are getting characters tattooed on them . . .

What problem? This is a public service. If you establish that the bearer of a particular tattoo doesn't read the language the tattoo is written in, you then know not to trust that person with sharp objects or money.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:30 PM on December 7, 2004

My Tokyo born girlfriend loves this site - we see stuff like this all the time, but usually not in tatoos.
posted by zaelic at 4:45 PM on December 7, 2004

A friend of mine got a birthday gift from one of his uncles in Japan a shirt that was rather attractive, but he couldn't read it, the uncle had included a translation with the card - "you people buy anything."
posted by nile_red at 7:11 PM on December 7, 2004

Why someone would get a tattoo'd in a language that they don't speak by someone who doesn't speak it either, is beyond me.

This summer a coworker showed off her first tattoo, in Chinese characters, natch. She said it meant "poverty" and went on about how much she'd thought about the the decision to put such a symbol on her skin. A few days later she corrected herself and said it meant "prosperity". I think it was the right choice to have it done in a language she'll never read, since her native tongue already gives her enough trouble.

A month later she was arrested for stealing a customer's credit card.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:56 PM on December 7, 2004

Maybe she swiped the credit card to pay for another tattoo. 詐欺 perhaps?
posted by mexican at 8:23 PM on December 7, 2004

Very funny, glad to know misuse of foreign languages is nearly universal... Now that I think about it, I reckon there is an Engrish.com equivalent where they make fun of our misuse of their language.

Fetch me such a page!
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:59 PM on December 7, 2004

I cheated and had hexagrams from the I Ching instead, you can't go wrong with hexagrams*.

*Except that my tattoo is -

a) The same one Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe have.
b) People think it's a bar code (like, duh...)
c) People think it's Tetris.
posted by longbaugh at 6:01 AM on December 8, 2004

TwelveTwo - ask and you shall receive.
posted by mexican at 1:43 AM on December 9, 2004

« Older Sappy Benday Romance   |   I have a cunning plan Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments