Photo by Jake Davies on Unsplash

Tattoos written in a language not spoken by the wearer are not uncommon.

People like to have a mysterious mark that they can claim is deeply significant for them, and yet you have no idea what it even means.

But the inky exoticization can backfire. In fact, for many people out there, it did backfire.

Whether it was the workings of a snarky tattoo artist or the fruits of total cultural ignorance, there are plenty of folks walking around with tattoos that say something VERY different than what they intended.

And thanks to a recent Reddit thread, all kinds of real life examples are right at our fingertips.

sunriseoverseas asked, "People who are able to read Chinese: what tattoos have you seen that were clearly not what the tattooed person aimed for?"

Spicier than Strong

"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.'"

-- BillyDomo

A Declaration

" '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!' "

-- The_WereArcticFox

Making Them Sweat

"I'm Chinese and love to ask people why they have 'butthole' tattooed on themselves. I can't even read Chinese." -- choibot3000

"My friend would use 'Beef with Broccoli.' " -- davesnotonreddit

"I want you to know that you are my hero." -- windyporcupine

Courageous Milk

"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."

-- theskiingblonde

Reverse Case

"Counterpoint: When I was living in China I saw a Chinese woman with 'Mind, Body, and Soup' tattooed on her. Still not quite sure if it was intentional or not" -- sometimesIbroncos

"I would not mind that tattoo." -- Lord_Grif

"At least I know what to call my organic soup subscription service now." -- jpterodactyl

Villainous Hole

"I read about one once that was supposed to read 'bad a**,' which it technically did, but the translation was closer to 'evil anus.' " -- SilentMunch

"I'd much rather have 'evil anus' on my arm than 'bad ass' " -- igotbigballs

"This would potentially be fairly accurate for me, at least on chili night" -- phormix

Can't Tell if This One Was Intentional or Not

"I saw a picture once of a huge back piece that just said 'vegetables.' " -- discountErasmus

"The last time I saw a thread like this, there was a guy who wanted to purposely get a tattoo that meant something ridiculous. I think he settled on 'bean curd.' " -- IAmGoingToF***That

So Everyone Knows Where He Stands

"Once on a subway this guy was telling us how his new tattoo was painful, it even had red marks around it."

"An Asian dude told him, 'Was it really worth it to get 'I eat pu**y' tattooed under your eye?'"

"The entire station filled with laughter"

-- JemaArteest

Constantly Campaigning

"there's this white guy i saw online a really long time ago — his wife/gf is called emily and he decided to get 'emily' but in chinese tattooed on him."

"he probably decided to run 'emily' thru google translate or smth bc he ended up tattooing the full name (first and last name) of a local politician in my city. it's still funny to me even now lol"

-- ptg1stwin

Loud and Proud

"I've spent some time in China and seen a lot of the reverse - Chinese folks wearing clothes with embarrassing things in English, or gibberish."

"The one I remember most clearly was a middle aged, no-nonsense looking kind of woman wearing a t-shirt that just said 'BALLS' in large sparkly letters."

-- Silly-Contribution-1

Confirmed by Committee

"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' "

-- gunbunnycb

Open to Interpretation

"I can't read any, but a friend in high school had to break the news to a girl her tattoo basically meant prostitute and not what she thought it meant." -- Waylon88

"She will have got her Chinese zodiac sign which is rooster. The one they commonly have in the tattoo shops is actually 'chicken' which is slang for prostitute." -- Sufficient_Bag_4551

Testing, Testing, Testing

"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." -- suitology

"I've seen signs in various parts of Asia that are obviously from google translate. My favorite was, IIRC, at a park. -server temporarily down; please check back later" -- meowhahaha

Sounds Cozy

"Japanese kanji 'Friend Boat.' They thought it read 'friendship.' " -- tropicofducks

"I like friend boat better" -- Sphalerite

"F*** yea! Everybody in the friend boat!" -- kevingranade

A Warning Label

"I've never seen anything like this myself, but my favorite example I saw on a previous thread about this was someone who claimed their tattoo read 'lover of Asian beauty' when actually it said 'pervert pig' (変態豚)."

"I'm guessing he must have been one of those creeps who fetishizes and objectifies East Asian women, and the tattoo artist picked up on that and put a warning label on him."

-- KawadaShogo

Telling It Like It Is

"Heard about this guy who got a tattoo that was supposed to be words like honor, strength, etc."

"He showed it off to a friend that could read it. The friend laughed and said it actually read, 'In the end, this boy is ugly.' "

"He went back to the tattoo shop and it was permanently closed."

-- MikeCanDoIt

Artistic License

"One of my friends in HS got a Chinese symbol on her back , really huge. When I got to college I showed some Chinese / Mandarin speaking friends what it meant. My HS friend didn't even know what it meant to be honest."

"Turns out the symbol means absolutely nothing , like it's not a real symbol in any language , just randomly drawn swishes basically."

-- ivymel666

Lightning Round

"Ohohohoho, I have a lot to tell you...this chinese not-friend of mine were writing on people with permanent marker (not tattoo, but whatever)"

"面包 : Girl thought it meant 'Elegant Swan' . It means BREAD"

"土豆:Guy thought it meant 'Strong Warrior'. It means POTATO"

"傻子:Guy thought it meant 'Brave'. It means IDIOT"

"喝水: Girl thought it meant 'Beautiful Girl'. It means DRINK WATER"

"胖猪: Guy thought it meant 'Good Man' . It means FAT PIG"

"\|: Guy thought it meant 'Nice Guy' . THIS ISNT EVEN A WORD ITS NOT EVEN CHINESE, ITS JUST LINES"

"笨小孩: Girl thought it meant, 'Graceful Lady' It means DUMB CHILD"

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