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Chinese Character Tattoos: Lost in Translation (Audio)
NPR ^ | January 11, 2006

Posted on 01/18/2006 12:22:09 PM PST by Dr. Marten

All Things Considered, January 11, 2006 · Robert Siegel talks with Tian Tang, author of a Web site dedicated to the misuse of Chinese characters in Western culture. Tang posts photos of Chinese character tattoos that either contain errors or carry no meaning.

Tang says as a Chinese American, he felt it was his "duty and honor to educate the public about the misusage of Chinese characters."

A reader e-mailed Tang this photo of a friend's tattoo. It's supposed to read "bad boy" in Chinese, except the order of last two characters has been reversed. Courtesy Tian Tang

 
Listen to the audio here.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: chinese; tattoo
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1 posted on 01/18/2006 12:22:10 PM PST by Dr. Marten
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To: Dr. Marten
http://www.hanzismatter.com/
2 posted on 01/18/2006 12:26:42 PM PST by detsaoT (run bsd)
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To: Dr. Marten

3 posted on 01/18/2006 12:28:52 PM PST by martin_fierro (You'll thank me later.)
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To: martin_fierro

This is absolutely hilarious. The dumbutt kid gets stuff tatooed on his arm in a language he can neither speak nor read.

In reality, the real meaning of the tatoo comes pretty close, IMO.


4 posted on 01/18/2006 12:32:13 PM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: MineralMan

What's Chinese for "Engrish?"


5 posted on 01/18/2006 12:33:50 PM PST by r9etb
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To: r9etb

Dunno. It's too late in my life to learn Chinese, so I'll skip it. I have a few phrases in Hmong, since I have Hmong neigbors and I like to say polite things to the old grandmother who putters in her garden.

My favorite tatoos are the tramp stamps I see everywhere I go on the pretty young things. I don't care about the tatoo, but I love seeing their sacral dimples. They make me feel all nice in my britches.


6 posted on 01/18/2006 12:37:15 PM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: Dr. Marten

This is link is to a funny video from a SNL skit about lower back tattoos...


http://www.drtattoff.com/tattoo-skit.php


7 posted on 01/18/2006 12:40:10 PM PST by flixxx
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To: MineralMan

HA-HA-HA. You made me laugh. You D.O.M. (dirty ol'man).


8 posted on 01/18/2006 12:40:24 PM PST by JeeperFreeper
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To: All

9 posted on 01/18/2006 12:41:29 PM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: martin_fierro
"I don't think Lee stands much of a chance with any attractive young Chinese lady he might meet."

And just how much of a chance would he have stood with "Love, Honor and Obey" on his arm, instead? ;)

10 posted on 01/18/2006 12:42:18 PM PST by Mr. Jeeves ("When the government is invasive, the people are wanting." -- Tao Te Ching)
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To: JeeperFreeper

"You D.O.M. (dirty ol'man)."

Indeed. At my age, I've earned it.


11 posted on 01/18/2006 12:42:27 PM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: r9etb
We have a Chinese Teacher here at school..
one day a kid came in showing off his brand new tattoo.
Sam (Yup his name is Sam) asked him why he would want THAT on his arm.. the Kid replied...."Hey I'm a BADA$$ and I want everyone to know !!!!"
Sam said "Well you may think your a BadA$$ but your Tattoo says "DUMBA$$"
12 posted on 01/18/2006 12:42:31 PM PST by Robe (Rome did not create a great empire by talking, they did it by killing all those who opposed them)
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To: Dr. Marten

So many of these tattooed clowns can't spell in English so what difference is it if they can't spell in Chinese? If they want to go around sporting a tattoo that says "I am a prune Danish", that's their business.


13 posted on 01/18/2006 12:45:14 PM PST by Emmett McCarthy
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To: detsaoT

the new order translates to idiot !


14 posted on 01/18/2006 12:49:41 PM PST by conservative physics
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To: Dr. Marten

I had fun with a young lady awhile back. She had a Chinese script tattoo on her arm. Several of us were at the bar reminiscing about our time in various Asian countries when we noticed it. She had also been listening in to our conversation.
We started laughing and talking about the tattoo – I wondered if she could read Chinese. You know how several people can get the same idea at the same time? When she came over we asked if she knew what the tattoo read – before she could answer someone told her it meant “cheap whore”. She left the bar in a hurry.
I wonder if she had it removed. None of us could read Chinese.


15 posted on 01/18/2006 12:50:14 PM PST by R. Scott (Humanity i love you because when you're hard up you pawn your Intelligence to buy a drink.)
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To: Robe

I know some Japanese due to my martial arts training. I saw a girl walk past me at a basketball game at UNC Charlotte a couple months ago with a Japanese symbol on the back of her right shoulder. I asked her what it meant. She said it meant "sexy".

I saved my laughter until she got out of earshot. She probably still doesn't know that she has the equivalent of "swine" or "dirty pig" written on her back. Tattoo guy obviously got tired of writing lies on fat white chicks and decided to have some fun :-)


16 posted on 01/18/2006 12:50:24 PM PST by The Black Knight
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To: martin_fierro

Beat me to it. (The adamsheik page)


17 posted on 01/18/2006 12:52:22 PM PST by George Smiley (This tagline deliberately targeted journalists.)
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To: Emmett McCarthy

Almost as funny as Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" - literal translation "I'm a jelly donut!"

Ah, but the press was kinder then.


18 posted on 01/18/2006 12:55:03 PM PST by timsbella (Mark Steyn for Prime Minister of Canada!)
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To: Robe
LOL!

We're talking cream of the crop, here, intellectually speaking...

19 posted on 01/18/2006 12:58:47 PM PST by Publius6961 (The IQ of California voters is about 420........... .............cumulatively)
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To: timsbella

Yeah, he meant to say "My brother's a jelly donut"


20 posted on 01/18/2006 12:59:13 PM PST by Emmett McCarthy
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To: MineralMan

That's hirrarious!

The following is from an email I received out lining 'new rules' for 06..

New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your azz. And it translates to "beef with broccoli." The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high.

LOL!


21 posted on 01/18/2006 1:00:56 PM PST by InsensitiveConservative
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To: r9etb

In Pinyin "English" would be written as: Yingguowen and pronounced more like Yin-gow-wen, which roughly translates to Hero Land Talk. So if you want an equivalent to "Engrish" try "Yingruowen".

jas3

p.s. America is Meiguo aka "Pretty Land", and France is Faguo...draw your own conclusions on France.....it certainly is easy to remember.


22 posted on 01/18/2006 1:07:15 PM PST by jas3
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To: Dr. Marten; All
Reminds me of the story my son in Afghanistan told me of a Marine who paid one of the locals to stitch the Marines name in the Pashtoon language on the outside of his knit cover, worn in cold weather. One of the sergeants got to the local and paid the guy $20 to stitch the equivalent of "Alpha Hotel" on the cover.

The Marine wore the cap all over the place for about a week, getting all kinds of confused looks until finally he was asked by an Afghani why he had that written on his cover? The Marine said that it was his name. The Afghani told him the truth and finally the secret was out. Lots of laughs and it was taken with no hard feelings.
23 posted on 01/18/2006 1:07:48 PM PST by Mr. Jazzy (Bumper sticker "Martyrs or Marines: Who do YOU think will get the virgins?")
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To: Dr. Marten
I've always hoped that some of the strings of character I've seen translate to "I just separated this round eyed fool from a bunch of cash."
24 posted on 01/18/2006 1:11:02 PM PST by Buzwardo
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To: Dr. Marten
I usually kid the tramp-stampers I meet by telling them that their lower-back tat translates to "target acquired", lol!
25 posted on 01/18/2006 1:16:48 PM PST by Ignatz (cyborg: "The lay teachers could not make hands of some girls.")
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To: timsbella
you said: Almost as funny as Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" - literal translation "I'm a jelly donut!"

You, my friend are incorrect...and have swallowed hook, line and sinker an urban legend. The President said it correctly.

26 posted on 01/18/2006 1:31:24 PM PST by RVN Airplane Driver (Most Americans are so spoiled with freedom they have no idea what it takes to earn and keep it.)
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To: martin_fierro

I read a story on a site dedicated to people who mess with Nigerian scammers and such, about a guy who teased a female co-worker about this very thing. He even quickly photoshopped a Chinese take-out menu to include a character that closely resembled hers to show her. He claims to have totally distressed the girl but later apologized.


27 posted on 01/18/2006 1:36:04 PM PST by bk1000 (A clear conscience is a sure sign of a poor memory)
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To: MineralMan

Actually, I'm thinking about taking a local Chinese class. One of my close friends is Chinese and I'd love to be able to talk--what little I could learn in my old age--with her. But I think I'll leave tattooing to others. And art I never did understand.


28 posted on 01/18/2006 1:36:42 PM PST by twigs
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To: r9etb

29 posted on 01/18/2006 1:37:42 PM PST by Yo-Yo
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To: Mr. Jazzy

I convinced a guy one time that the Chinese word for "chicken" (ji) is the same word for "cat".


30 posted on 01/18/2006 1:37:44 PM PST by AppyPappy (If you aren't part of the solution, there is good money to be made prolonging the problem.)
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To: Yo-Yo

LOL! And if you follow the line of sight of the camera, you'll end up at the right back ah chew....


31 posted on 01/18/2006 1:39:15 PM PST by r9etb
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To: Yo-Yo

32 posted on 01/18/2006 1:42:11 PM PST by reagan_fanatic (Darwinism is a belief in the meaninglessness of existence - R. Kirk)
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To: RVN Airplane Driver

Sorry darlin' - I speak it and although it's one of those niggly thangs, he did blow the personal emphasis. "ein" would have been fine in reference to a country, but not to a city.

No matter, they cheered and did not chuckle. Just be glad he didn't get a tattoo ;)


33 posted on 01/18/2006 1:44:02 PM PST by timsbella (Mark Steyn for Prime Minister of Canada!)
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To: Dr. Marten
I see incorrect Chinese tattoos every now and then, which is usually just Chinese looking squiggles, but occasionally real words that aren't what the owners think they are. My all time favorite was when a waitress brough me and my friends at a bar some drinks. One of them pointed out that I spoke Chinese, and asked her to show me her tattoo (which was half concealed by her sleeve).

She smiled and said, 'Sure thing! This one on top means 'pretty' and the one below it means 'girl'. I nodded, with a blank look on my face. As soon as she departed, I turned to the guy on my left and said, "I didn't have the heart to tell her, but she got screwed by whoever did her tattoo. Her tattoo didn't say 'pretty girl'. It said 'ancient horse'."

34 posted on 01/18/2006 1:46:35 PM PST by Steel Wolf (If the Founders had wanted the President to be spying on our phone calls, they would have said so!)
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To: RVN Airplane Driver; timsbella
Almost as funny as Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" - literal translation "I'm a jelly donut!"

You, my friend are incorrect...and have swallowed hook, line and sinker an urban legend. The President said it correctly

From what I understand, everywhere else in Germany a berliner IS a jelly donut. So while he may have been correct in Berlin the rest of the country heard "I am a jelly donut"

(But then I could be wrong. It's happend before. I think)

35 posted on 01/18/2006 1:56:38 PM PST by John O (God Save America (Please))
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To: John O

You've right. It's roughly the equivalent of saying "I'm a Hamburger" rather than "I'm of Hamburg".


36 posted on 01/18/2006 1:59:01 PM PST by timsbella (Mark Steyn for Prime Minister of Canada!)
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To: martin_fierro
This is why you don't have words or names tattooed on your person.

I go back under the needle on Sat to get bolding and shading done on my new one.

37 posted on 01/18/2006 2:05:52 PM PST by RikaStrom (The number one rule of the Kama Sutra is that you both be on the same page.../Exeter 051705)
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To: Dr. Marten
Here is a cool page that deciphers a whole bunch of Chinese tatoos among other things.ZhongWen.com
38 posted on 01/18/2006 2:30:13 PM PST by Bon mots
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To: jas3; r9etb
"In Pinyin "English" would be written as: Yingguowen and pronounced more like Yin-gow-wen, which roughly translates to Hero Land Talk. So if you want an equivalent to "Engrish" try "Yingruowen". "
 
It looks like you need to brush up on your Chinese a bit more.
 
English in Pinyin is "Yingwen", not "Yingguowen" (英文). Also, it's pronounced pretty much just like it looks, "Ying-wen".
 
"Yingguo", means England. "Wen", means, in this instance, language.
 
As for saying, "Engrish", I'm not sure exactly what that would be since it's an "English" word. You could probably ask the owner of the website featured above as he is Chinese and obviously has a superb command the English language as well, while I am only a 3rd year student of Chinese(well, 4.5 if you count the year and a half I spent living in China).

39 posted on 01/18/2006 3:00:53 PM PST by Dr. Marten ((http://thehorsesmouth.blog-city.com))
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To: Bon mots

Yep, I have a character display on my site that links to them.

It is a pretty neat site.


40 posted on 01/18/2006 3:01:53 PM PST by Dr. Marten ((http://thehorsesmouth.blog-city.com))
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To: jas3
p.s. America is Meiguo aka "Pretty Land".
 
p.s. "Meiguo" (美国) actually translates to "beautiful country".

41 posted on 01/18/2006 3:09:56 PM PST by Dr. Marten ((http://thehorsesmouth.blog-city.com))
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To: Dr. Marten

I saw a woman in the US with the name:

"Piao Ke"

(I.e. A John, someone that visits prostitutes) :-)


42 posted on 01/18/2006 3:18:00 PM PST by pganini
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To: Steel Wolf

I saw one that said "A John", i.e. someone that visits prostitutes ("Piao Ke") on a woman no less :) She asked me what it meant, and I told her and she turned white. She thought I was joking -- I was at a Chinese restaurant, so i just asked someone else to tell her, same thing. Poor girl.


43 posted on 01/18/2006 3:20:13 PM PST by pganini
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To: Dr. Marten

Actually the whole name is not "pretty country". it's America, The "Me" sound translated to that character. It's a short name for something that would have required 4 Chinese characters to translate.


44 posted on 01/18/2006 3:21:50 PM PST by pganini
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To: The Black Knight

One Chinese American tatooist got into major trouble for doing just this in Texas last year (he got sent to prison because it is actually FRAUD to give to customer something they didn't want :-))

He'd put on the skin:

"Dumbass Laowai"
"Cheap whore"
"Pig"
"Faggot"
"Fat pig"


45 posted on 01/18/2006 3:26:59 PM PST by pganini
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To: John O

He used the article (ein); if he had said "Ich bin Berliner," it would have been correct. However, everybody knew perfectly well what he meant, and Germans (particularly Berliners) loved it, error and all.


46 posted on 01/18/2006 3:33:08 PM PST by livius
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To: pganini
"Actually the whole name is not "pretty country". it's America, The "Me" sound translated to that character. It's a short name for something that would have required 4 Chinese characters to translate."
 
I didn't say anything about "pretty country". That was the other poster who said something about "pretty land" and pretty would actually be more like "漂亮的".
 
Also, there's nothing about "me" in Meiguo. "Mei" (美), means beautiful while "guo" (国), means country.
 
Same with China. The name China is actually derrived from "Qin", as in the first Emperor to unify the nation. In Chinese, China is called "Zhongguo" (中国), or "middle country / middle kingdom".
 
Not all of the names of the various countries are translated in a "phonetic" manner that corresponds with their Chinese pronunciation.

47 posted on 01/18/2006 3:36:59 PM PST by Dr. Marten ((http://thehorsesmouth.blog-city.com))
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To: Dr. Marten


Meiguo is a short pronounciation for America ("me" in america in English pronounciation = Mei in Chinese). It's actually Ah- Mei- Li - Ka in the official name. If you were to translated United States of America, that's what it'd be. But for short, they used Meiguo because it does have the "beautiful" meaning, but it's based on pronounciation of America. In other words, it's a short name for USA.



48 posted on 01/18/2006 3:42:12 PM PST by pganini
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To: Dr. Marten
90 pounds for a tatoo

Wearing an insult for life on your skin

Priceless!

49 posted on 01/18/2006 3:44:42 PM PST by SoftballMominVA
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To: Dr. Marten


Also, France is "Fa-guo" (Phonetic). It doesnt' mean LAWFUL country (the word for Fa means law, but it's a phonetic translation).

England, same thing. It doesnt' mean "heroic country". It's just the phonetic translation for "Eng".

Germany is "De Guo", in otherwords, it is not a "moral" country as the translation shows. It's because DEUTCHLAND is the name. DEU roughly translates to Deguo.

Spain - (Si Ban Ya) Phonetic based.

I am not sure if any country in Chinese translation would not be phonetic based.

Canada - "Ja na da" No real meaning here.

In other words, they're all phonetic based.


50 posted on 01/18/2006 3:47:09 PM PST by pganini
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