Bad kanji tattoos

Tian that runs the always funny “kanji debunking” blog Hanzi Smatter has been keeping me updated as to the many errors that show up in BME’s kanji tattoo gallery. Here are a few recent errors:

Thought it meant: Chaos slogan
Actually means: Nothing, due to missing dot.
(Tian speculates that artists are sharing bad flash)

Thought it meant: “I can’t remember”
Actually means: Confuse.
(Oh, the irony!)

Thought it meant: Screw this
Actually means: Insert Screw-Nail Here

Thought it meant: Carla (Mother’s name)
Actually means: Karaoke

Thought it meant: Healthy
Actually means: Nothing

You’ll see plenty more examples on Tian’s site, with many being poorly rendered characters, often mirrored or inverted, with missing strokes and dots making them meaningless. See also: Twenty Kanjis

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

4 thoughts on “Bad kanji tattoos

  1. It depends on if the character is meant to be read in Chinese, Japanese or in rarer cases Korean. What may mean “nothing” in one part of Asia may mean something in another. (One well known example if the Kanji for “letter” in Japanese means “toilet paper” in Chinese) For example, the last character in this post is part of the kanji combo for “health” in Japanese… it’s just stylized a bit poorly, but it does “mean something.”

  2. I live in Asia, and speak both Japanese and Chinese, and I’ve seen huge numbers of nonsense kanji tatoos in Western countries. But, the example of “Carla” above is actually correct: it’s pronounced “kala” which is the closest you can get to “Carla” in Chinese. The first two characters are also used in “karaoke,” (in Chinese, not Japanese, which doesn’t use kanji to write “karaoke,”) but alone they don’t mean “karaoke.”

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