Saturday, August 31, 2013

Chinese Characters As Tattoos

My wife was reading me a funny post from Facebook by George Takai, Sulu of Star Trek fame, about the use of Asian characters as tattoos.  I too have noticed that a lot of white, black and Hispanic males seem to favor Chinese characters. I wonder, do they really know what they mean?
Defining Chinese Characters

To prove my thesis I asked an Asian friend of mine to translate the next tattoo we saw together and see if it made any sense. As you can see from the photo to the right, the characters and what that character means, you don't always get what you want.

Much like English, just because you know the word, doesn't necessarily mean you know how to use it.  As a matter of fact, at the first one we saw, his eyes got big and he started to laugh. I mean really laugh. When I asked what was so funny, he admitted that while I may not understand it, I could count on the fact that the grammar was wrong, very, VERY wrong.

Which leads me to the photo I saw of David Beckham not too long ago where he bares his torso to show a string of Chinese characters tattooed down his left side.

My friend explained to me, that knowing the character and its definition is not the end. Characters and their meaning also depend on context, not unlike English and while each character has a meaning, when you string them together, the meanings often change.

As a graphic designer, I have to admit that these characters have a lot more graphic style, that they are far more interesting than Roman characters.

There is mystery, unusual strokes, and hidden meanings in each and every one. However, those getting these tattoos should also hope that the "artist" doing the work is aware of these limitations as well.

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