Beauty is Only Skin Deep

Tattoo 

… but a botched tattoo cuts to the bone.  What do you do when your tattoo goes awry? 

At the root of the craze for Chinese tattoos is the same fascination for Eastern traditions that has fanned interest in feng shui and Asian-theme clothing and décor. But by imprinting the Chinese characters indelibly into their skin, the owners of the tattoos take their Asian fetish, and the consequences of less-than-perfect knowledge, to a different level.

Because they must rely on the word of others to ascertain the meaning of the characters, they are vulnerable to honest mistakes as well as malicious jokesters.

Tattoo artists — few of whom know Chinese — copy the characters from templates that are often of uncertain provenance and are easily corrupted if a word is unwittingly substituted, or if someone decides to take liberties by altering a few strokes. When two characters are combined to form what is in English a catchy phrase, context can be lost and the result can be hilarious — or worse.

How bad is that– being stuck with some meaningless gibberish tattooed on your body.  You would think that most people who get "symbolic" tattoos would do tons of research before they went under the needle, but surprisingly, many people don't:

"I'm very surprised a lot of times that people will e-mail me about their tattoos, and they never found out the real meaning before they got it," said Mr. Tang, 29, a graduate student in materials engineering at Arizona State University who moved to the United States when he was 13. "Some of them are close, but some are just way off."

It's no wonder that people in the know don't say anything.  That must be the height of embarrassment, to have someone tell you that your "profound" tattoo means either the complete opposite of what you thought it meant, or that the message is completely meaningless.

Obviously, people who are too lazy to research should just stick with simple pictures.

"Cool Tat, Too Bad It's Gibberish"  [NYT]

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