As we’ve said before, getting a Chinese tattoo needs to be something that you do only after undertaking painstaking research; however, if something does get lost in translation, then don’t despair, OWN IT.
That’s what one Tennessee girl did after mistakenly getting NBA star Jeremy Lin’s name in Chinese permanently etched into her ankle. Holland Christensen is not a Lin super-fan, instead she just got screwed over by some asshole on the internet, and didn’t bother to double-check, for whatever reason. Here’s how she summed it on her Reddit post:
It was a huge fail, I had no idea who he even was, and who the F gets a random tattoo of someone’s name? Basically someone thought it would be hilarious to give me the wrong Chinese translation of what I actually wanted for the tattoo, and me being impulsive and not double checking I now have Jeremy Lin’s name on my body for the rest of my life.
Here’s the tattoo:
However, instead of falling into despair and desperately severing her ankle, she decided to embrace the Linsanity, and become his biggest fan. She started to watch videos of Lin on YouTube, and soon found out that he’s an attractive dude, “a really good guy and a total sweetheart,” and probably the most likeable guy in professional basketball (unless you are a NBA ref).
She decided that since she’s already got the dude’s name tattooed to her ankle, she should also go see him play some ball. After her friend dropped out on her, she posted to Reddit, searching for someone who wanted to go to the game with her. From there, her insane story went viral.
Watch her full confessional video below for all the details:
Christensen did go to the game, and while she wasn’t able to meet Lin afterward, he did hear about her later, tweeting her the perfect response and posting to Reddit:
On Reddit, Lin responded to Christensen: “…in all seriousness, thank you for your support and for sharing your story. Glad you were able to turn a mistake into something positive! Feel free to keep me posted if you come to a playoff game.”
The Hornets made the playoffs this year (woohoo!) and will play the Miami Heat in the first round, Christensen says she plans on attending a game.
While this is all incredible, Christensen could have saved herself a bit of trouble by using Waygo, or any number of other apps, that can take pictures of Chinese and Japanese characters offline and provide instant translation.
A quick Google search will reveal thousands of mangled Chinese tattoos exposed for what they really are: absolute gibberish. In 2013, a story surfaced of a tattoo artist in Sao Paulo, Brazil arrested for tattooing a client with characters translating to “Chicken Noodle Soup” instead of a sentimental quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.
Another prominent example is an American woman who wanted a tattoo of the Chinese word for “freedom.” What she ended up with was the words for “free of charge.” There are countless other similar stories of tattoo disasters, and even some celebrities have fallen victim to the trap: Justin Timberlake was given a fake Chinese tattoo for his role in “Alpha Dog,” to make him appear like an authentic “bad boy.” The tattoo he was given was 溜冰 (liūbīng), which means “skating” or “ice-skating”… probably not what he was looking for. Likewise, Britney Spears has the character 奇 (q ī) stamped on her hip. She was under the assumption that the direct translation was “mysterious”; but actually, it was “weird” or “odd.”
For more Chinese tattoo fails check out Hanzi Smatter, the best blog on the internets.