Librarian's Freebie

Everyone has a different opinion about librarians. Some may think they are a bunch stiffy nerds who are addicted to books & obsessive compulsively trying keep everything in order. While, other urban myth has branded librarians as a naughty bunch of nympho sexual freaks.

Few weeks ago I received this photo from a librarian. She got it over ten years ago and thought it mean "to give love". Of course with time, certain phrases in any language would morph astray from their original meaning.

I had a discussion with Alan, my senior Japanese linguistic consultant (I want my "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" back, damn it!), about this and here is our conclusion.

Tian: in Chinese means "to give/pay". To me, this tattoo means "pay(paid) love". What do you think?

Alan: This combination 付恋 is not found in Japanese, so it has no fixed meaning.

I can't think of an instance in Japanese where or 付ける has the meaning of "to give/pay" but it certainly does have lots of meanings. A lot of them have to with adding something, fixing or attaching something to something else. There is one sense where 付け means a "tab" or "bill" at a bar or the like, so it has more of the sense of running up or adding to a bill rather than paying it.

The phrase -付き as a suffix means "with" in the sense of something that comes with something else like an apartment that comes with a garage or a lunch set with coffee.

Perhaps the creator of this tattoo wanted 付恋 to mean "with love" but the character order is wrong for Japanese. This would also not be the normal way to write "with love" anyway, because it would be more like 愛を込めて as a set phrase for this.

Well, I guess it could be interpreted as something like giving love in addition to something else. A "freebie" perhaps? Giving a little love on the side? I don't know.

Tian: The owner of this tattoo is a librarian, and you know the rumors about how naughty those librarians... ;)

Alan: Oh, yeah? You don't say... I thought those librarians were a pretty straitlaced, bookish sort. You'll have to tell me some of those rumors...


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