Just saw the following headline at SoufOaklin.com Disgruntled Asian Tattoo Artist Inks His Revenge  

Pitt junior Brandon Smith wanted a tattoo that proclaimed his manliness, so he decided to get the Chinese characters for “strength” and “honor” on his chest. After 20 minutes under the needle of local tattoo artist Andy Sakai, he emerged with the symbol for “small penis” embedded in his flesh.

“I had it for months before I knew what it really meant,” Smith said. “Then I went jogging through the Carnegie Mellon campus and a group of Asian kids started laughing and calling me ‘Shorty.’ That’s when I knew something was up.”

     Sakai, an award-winning tattoo artist, was tired of seeing sacred Japanese words, symbols of his heritage, inked on random white people. So he used their blissful ignorance to make an everlasting statement. Any time acustomer came to Sakai’s home studio wanting Japanese tattooed on them, he modified it into a profane word or phrase.

     “All these preppy sorority girls and suburban rich boys think they’re so cool ‘cause they have a tattoo with Japanese characters. But it doesn’t mean shit to them!” Sakai said. “The dumbasses don’t even realize that I’ve written ‘slut’ or ‘pervert’ on their skin!”

I'm surprised that reports of actions like this are not more widespread. I keep waiting for someone to start the Japanese version of Engrish.com that makes fun of all the folks in the USA who have misspelled Japanese characters on their T-shirts or tattoed on their skin the same way Engrish.com does for misspelled, grammatically incorrect English that shows up in Japan all over the place.

I've always thought it was really ghetto (i.e. ignorant) to have characters in a language you can't freaking understand tatooed on your skin. Anyone who's ever done this needs to be awarded 100 ghettofabulous points when they pass Go! and should also collect a free copy of Kardinall Offishall's UR Ghetto. Dang!


Thursday, January 15, 2004 1:28:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think reports of this action are not more widespread because soufoaklin.com is a satirical news site, i.e. the story is made up :).

That being said, I completely agree with your comments. However, I used the abreviation "i. e." above despite the fact that I don't know what it is an abreviation of. I think it's from something in latin but I'm not sure... Obviously I wasn't trying to be "cool" using it so maybe I'm not as stupid as the people in the story but it still feels pretty damn close :).
Thursday, January 15, 2004 4:11:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
i.e. == id est, literally means "that is" and is used as such in english.

Satire that story may be, but it is grounded in fact.

I was in the US Army as a Korean linguist (I am a white guy from Florida and not of asian descent.) and one time found a newbie infantry guy proud of his jacket that he had had stitched with the Korean letters for his unit designation. I felt bad to have to tell him that the Korean letters on his jacket that he thought was his unit in reality phoenetically spelled out "Yankee go home."

I have heard other similar stories. Some may have been urban legend. But linguists always perform the joke that when they're asked how to say hello in a language they will answer something like, "ya, kae-saeki ya." (Which, in Korean, is NOT hello.)
John Morales
Friday, January 16, 2004 11:51:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I've never seen a Japanese tattoo that was maliciously wrong, but I've seen plenty that are nonsense (where the victim picked characters from a book that he thought conveyed a certain message, but in combination just don't work) or at least are laughably un-idiomatic.

I've also seen T-shirts sold at Urban Outfitters that say (in Japanese) "I am a stupid foreigner."
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