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Grammaticas for the Idiot Abroad pt 2
last modified: Thursday, February 14, 2013 (11:12:31 AM)
(cue eyeroll) Seriously. If you're not familiar with a language, don't pick two random characters and say that these identify you and your essence. It's just stupid, especially when you refer to yourself by the foreign word, but you had to look it up on the internet and never bothered to verify your pronunciation with someone who speaks the language. Also, don't take said characters and go to a tattoo shop to brand yourself with them. Or, if you really have to do that, make sure you go to someone who understands the language and can write it. I can't tell you how many times I've seen passengers with a tattoo that says "Black Pepper" in lieu of "Black Power".

Anyways, I asked the man if he was correct with his writing of the kanji for tiger, and mentioned the sickness radical, and how, by writing it incorrectly, he basically wrote that he's a watery, sick number 7. He got really mad at me, and hurriedly informed me that he just wrote it to be able to identify his bags quickly. I was rather amused by his anger - I just pointed out the obvious. Besides, any language student can tell you that there's no shame in making a mistake like that. But there is when you brand yourself, or your items, with that.

(Apologies for the kanji characters not appearing the blog. You can look them up here if you need the visual - )
re: Grammaticas for the Idiot Abroad pt 2Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 3:34:33 PM

I can certainly understand being annoyed with someone like that, and with the people who don''t really know what they are tattooing on their bodies. The man you speak of seems almost willfully ignorant, and I think you''re wise to correct him. Even if he gets mad, I''m sure he''ll think about it from now on.

But I also feel this kind of situation usually happens because the person in question has a lot of enthusiasm for the culture/language/subject matter. I''ve seen plenty of Japanese shirts that use english without knowing what it really means, probably because they like the way it looks or think that it''s cool regardless of what it says. Even if they''re not familiar with the language, I think their heart is in the right place. Usually~

re: Grammaticas for the Idiot Abroad pt 2Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 4:47:02 PM

This reminds me of all the stories, many of them apocryphal, but some of them probably based on truth, of travelers who copy Chinese or Japanese characters onto their clothing or even have them tattooed onto their body. They think they mean something uplifting like "strength" or simply like the design. But someone who knows the language knows they mean "Registered Shanghai Prostitute" or "At the end of the day, this boy is ugly," or some such. See Fine and Sensei, "The Global Grapevine" (Oxford 2010), pp. 123-130.