She's had this tattoo since she was a teen; turns out, according to Tian Tang, it translates as "serious error; gross mistake" (Photo: Hanzi Smatter)
If you're thinking about getting a tattoo featuring Chinese characters, you might want to visit Hanzi Smatter first.
The blog, which is run by Chinese American Tian Tang, is dedicated to exposing "the misuse of Chinese characters in Western culture." Basically, Tang helps people find out what the characters they've had permanently inked on their body actually mean.
People send Tang photographs of their tattoos, and the blogger posts translations when possible, and explanations when there is nothing to translate.
It seems like a lot of people have ended up with completely meaningless tattoos: throughout the blog, Tang references the "gibberish Asian font."
Along with professional Japanese-English translator Alan Siegrist, Tang tracked down a set of characters that many tattoo artists use to "translate" from English into Asian tattoo language (that's the chart they developed to the left).
Each character is matched to a letter in the Latin alphabet. The only problem? Those characters have no relationship with those letters. Instead, as Tang writes, "this font set is complete gibberish."
Not all of the tattoos on Hanzi Smatter are gibberish, though. Some people have ended up with phrases and words that they didn't ask for - and it looks like in some cases the tattoo artist may have had some fun at their expense.
Here are a few recent entries from the blog. If you're willing to laugh (gently) at the mistakes of others, it's worth a visit.
This gentleman asked for characters reading "Fast" and "Furious."
He got most of what he wanted: Tang says the tat actually reads "Fast" and "Foolish."
One of this guy's friends sent in this pic, saying he was being very mysterious about the meaning behind his new arm tats. Based on Tang's translation, it sounds like he asked for a Chinese version of the phrase "Kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out."
According to Tang, he got this: "Destroy/Them/Total," "Let/Deity/Organize/Them." It's almost as good.
The person who got this tattoo thought it read "friendship."
Unfortunately, the actual translation, according to Tang, is "bad looking; shame; ugly; unclean."
A few years back, we put together a list of the Top 5 Bad Tattoos. One of them is a bad translation. Check that out below: