30 Of The Most Cringeworthy Tattoos That People Who Are Fluent In Chinese And Japanese Have Seen
Nobody wants "demon bird mothballs" permanently carved on their hand. People had better opt for ink scribbles like “inspiration,” “my journey,” or “live life to the fullest.”
But in some cases, this is the price you pay for one, lack of research; two, impulsive decision making; and three, poor translation. There’s also an aspect of cultural appropriation with Westerners tattooing Hanzi and Kanji (the Chinese and Japanese character sets) that cannot be overlooked.
It doesn't, however, deter people from getting one. You probably still remember Britney Spears’ infamous bikini tattoo that was supposed to mean ‘mysterious,’ but turned out to be ‘strange.’ With numerous examples way worse than Britney's surfing around online, we were wondering what people fluent in Japanese and Chinese have to say about such a trend.
So scroll down for the worst tattoos of Far East logograms spotted by people who know the real meaning behind them, and be sure to check out our previous articles with more fails like these here and here.
When I was in the Army, one of the guys I was in with had this tattoo that he was super proud of.
He claimed it meant fierce. We went with it.
A few months later, we're sent, as a group, to San Francisco as part of a recruiting, P/R trip.
We go into Chinatown and a get dinner together.
The guy with the tat always made sure that tat was visible.
We're sitting at the table and the waitress takes our order, as she does she looks at dude and asks if he raises chickens?
Dude: "What are taking about?"
Waitress: "You have chicken on your arm."
Dude: "No, it says fierce"
Waitress in calls to another and says, "What that say?" "tell him."
Second Waitress: "Chicken"
You could just see dude die inside. Especially when a third person who's English wasn't as good says "It say cock"
I read about one once that was supposed to read "badass," which it technically did, but the translation was closer to "evil anus."
I speak Japanese. A guy had a massive Kanji tattoo on his arm. I asked him, “what did you ask them to put on you?” He said “oh, this? It means courage.”
Sir, that means breastmilk.
There’s no one single reason why hanzi and kanji on tattoo aficionados' bodies sometimes end up in failure. First, there’s the lack of research which may be time and effort-consuming, meaning that you have to consult the experts in Chinese/Japanese languages to really tell you the meaning of your chosen logogram.
Then, there’s an overconfidence in the tattoo artist, who may not know the language you want your tattoo inked in. It doesn’t mean you can put the blame on them—it’s not their job to work as language editors, but rather to give you a beautiful and precise work of ink you’ll likely carry for the rest of your life.
鸡蛋 meaning egg tattooed on the side of his face - didn’t help that the man was bald and it took all my willpower to not laugh in his face
Dude I worked with long time ago had "to the grave" on his arm.
Both of our managers came from China (one was Chinese, the other Vietnamese who grew up in China). When he asked the one what his tattoo said, she said "cheapskate!"
He was mortified and said "no, no, it means to the grave" and she said "yeah, when you die, you'll take all your belongings with you to the grave. You won't leave anything for anyone. You're cheap" he says "no, no, it means I take all my secrets to the grave!" She goes "that's not what your arms says"
He was soooo pissed.
It’s not me but my stepdad got a symbol on the back of his neck that he THOUGHT meant “warrior” or “strong” or something like that. Someone told him one day that it 100% says “spicy.”
And third, a momentary impulse to get a tattoo without really thinking it through is most likely to blame. When your head is in the clouds and you really get fascinated with a particular character which, in your mind, looks amazing, sounds amazing and carries an amazing meaning, you don’t even think of the prospect of regret. This dawns on you after you leave the tattoo parlor, after someone who really knows the language starts cringing while making you regret the decision.
But no matter what kind of tattoo you’re getting, whether it’s hanzi, kanji, something impulsive, something you ink while drunk, or something you made while a teen in your friend’s garage, regret is a big part of being an owner of the tattoo. And while proud owners don’t have it, others, like the tattoo aficionados in this list, probably know the feeling when otherwise perfect inkwork suddenly turns sour.
One of my coworkers requested the character for “free” as in “freedom” which would be 自由, however because he just used translation apps, he ended up with 免 as in 免税 which means “tax free.” Its also on his hand and is always visible.
Saw 黄 on someone's neck. It means "yellow".
Asked her why she had 'yellow' tattooed on her and she started to explain its spiritual significance in Chinese culture but I had to interrupt and say "No, it really means yellow, like the color."
Felt kind of like a dick afterwards, to be honest, but at the moment i thought it was right to bring it up to her.
I used to work at a bar and a lady came in with 自転車 on her shoulder. I speak Japanese and asked her what it meant. She replied proudly “driven to be self motivated”. That word means bicycle in Japanese.
So in order to find out more about tattoo regrets and how to avoid them, Bored Panda reached out to Orsolya Molnár, a London-based professional tattoo artist who has been tattooing people since 2014. She specializes in delicate blackwork, dotwork, black & grey and linework tattoos, as well as florals, birds, animals and other naturalistic designs that fit the body.
“In my opinion, these days people are a lot more deliberate when it comes to getting a tattoo,” Orsolya said and added that they do more research and put more energy into coming up with an idea.
Buddy from high school had the nickname "Beast". Got that tattooed in between his shoulder blades in some Asian looking characters. Home from college over the summer, playing sand volleyball, shirt off, random Asian girl asked him why he had "bread" tattooed there.
I saw a manager demanding Karen b***hing out a cashier with “chicken” on her neck. I asked her about her cool tattoo and she said it means “hope.” Uh, nope - chicken. I just love whomever did this to her over-entitled self.
I can't read it but a girl i was seeing pointed out my ex girlfriend had a tattoo that read something like "demo text" on her shoulder.
Having said that, Orsolya confirmed that there will always be people who regret a tattoo for some reason or other. “Usually they regret it because they chose the wrong tattoo artist and don't like the outcome or because they got tattooed younger in the '90s or early 2000s and they no longer want to have those older ones. However, nowadays it is a lot easier to get old tattoos removed or covered up.”
“Another type of tattoo that people often regret is their significant other's name on their body—I've had to cover up quite a few of these on clients,” she recounted.
At a bar with my buddy Steve-o (not the jackass one) and Steve-o is talkin to some guy about his neck tattoos. Guy was saying one meant power and the other meant strength, cause that's who he is (or some other bulls**t along those lines, I had a few pints at that point).
Chinese? fella a few seats down chuckles while putting down his beard. Looks up and says "That not Power Strength! That Kitchen Sink!"
Steve-o and I lost all of our spaghetti laughing, sides in orbit with a couple of strangers.
My cheeks hurt just remembering it.
I knew someone that got the Chinese characters that were supposed to mean “sky”.
A Chinese friend of theirs pointed out it meant “ceiling”.
I speak and read mandarin and cantonese fluently, and one time I was in Boston with my family to visit family and we ended up at this seafood restaurant. When my family sat down there was another family there and one of those people being the dad. The dad was huge, like Arnold Schwarzenegger huge, and on his arm he had a massive tattoo saying “打飛機.” I’m pretty sure the guy used to be from the air force because he had a bunch of papers in his back pack and stuff because the restaurant served free meals to people that served in the army, so his tattoo translated from Mandarin to English which means “hit air plane,” it sounds sort of reasonable since he severed in the air force but the thing is if you were to translate this from cantonese to english, it would also mean “hit air plane” but it’s also slang for “to jack off”
When asked what kind of tattoo design the professional artist would refuse to do on a client’s body, Orsolya said that all respectable tattoo artists would refuse any sort of hate symbols or signs. “I personally don't tattoo minors either. But unfortunately, as in any profession, there are always some who would do it,” she said.
“Otherwise, sometimes clients reach out and want a design in a very specific style that isn't what I do usually—I would most likely refuse them as well. It's always best to go to an artist that specializes in the style that you want.”
A person from work had a fairly small Japanese tattoo that was supposed to read "Big Brains". (He'd just got his degree or something, so this was a celebration of that)
A Japanese co-workers started laughing and said it was more like "Big Head".
There was a somewhat famous dude among the Chinatown dwellers where I lived awhile back. He was a big, buff white guy who would always hang out in Chinatown with shirts that had the sleeves ripped off. He was pointed out to me in roughly this manner, “Look at that guy. His name is Ben. Ben has a tattoo of his name in Chinese on his upper arm. Ben insisted on having the pinyin of his name tattooed instead of being given a proper Chinese name. Ben is proud of his tattoo. Ben likes to introduce himself to the Asian people in Chinatown by pointing to his tattoo.”
Ben in pinyin = “pen” (pronounced pe-hn, which does sound like an Asianfied “Ben”). “Pen” in Mandarin means stupid. Dude introduced himself as stupid for years. Afaik no one has ever told him. Everyone knows Ben though.
"As a matter of priority I declare, I am a wife beater"
Is what I saw on a man's arm.
he thinks it's means something along the lines of "the best, strongest, manliest man is right here!"
Before getting a tattoo, Orsolya reminds everyone to do their research to see that you like the work and style of the artist you want to go to. “Nowadays, it's very easy to find good tattoo artists on Instagram. Once you have the artist and you know what you want to get, reach out to them and tell them what you're thinking about. But be open to some changes if it makes the tattoo better.”
I saw someone with a tattoo that said 下品 "inferior goods" once
But my favorite was a white person with a tattoo that said 白人 which means "white person"
"马马"， which means "horse horse". 100% sure that guy wanted a "mama", but "妈"[mā］means "mom", while "马"[mă] means "horse", they sound similar, but with different tones
Shrimp Dumpling, huge tattoo on a jacked guy.
“To me getting a tattoo should be a personal decision. Clients often seek out the opinions of others around them when it comes to the design and placement etc. and listen to their opinions over themselves or the artist.”
The professional tattoo artist added that clients should also be ready to listen to their artists “as we are the ones that know how to make a design fit the body and have it look good for decades to come. Sometimes this means that a tattoo should be bigger or should be in a different spot as the skin loses elasticity and can massively change how the tattoo looks over the years,” Orsolya concluded.
I saw a picture once of a huge back piece that just said "vegetables".
As a tattoo artist, I've seen many. I myself, can't read Kanji but I explain to my client that it's probably most likely not the word they want. Most clients realize that and for some reason still get it. Google can't possibly be right all the time, that's my stance on it.
Worst one I've seen though, one that was translated to picnic table.
I saw a girl with 水炎 tattooed which means 'Water' and 'Inflammation'.
She must have wanted 水火 which means 'Water' and 'Fire'.
炎, Inflammation is two 火 Fires, one on top of the other
Japanese kanji "Friend Boat." They thought it read "friendship."
Not me, but my father once met a woman who wanted to have “bad girl,” like as in “badass,” tattooed on her in Chinese.
The characters didn’t really mean that, though. It, uh, meant something more along the lines of a woman who would cheat on her husband and take advantage of men.
My friends mum had what she thought was her name on her chest, her friend at work asked why she had 'population of China' tatted on her
I knew an English girl in Japan who had kanji for woman on her arm. It is also the sign for ladies toilets. Suddenly gets less sexy.
I know a girl who had "壊疽" ("gangrene") tattooed on her side and it quickly became her nickname ([sic] name-call). Even her family began calling her that. She was a very mean person, simply put, and I can only guess the tattoo artist was getting back at her. This was about five years ago and nobody hears much from her nowadays.
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