Good Characters, Inc. (oh, the irony) has launched a new application for Apple iPhones called "Chinese Alphabet".


The application uses a set of random Chinese characters to correspond with 26 letters in English alphabet. The company claims this will "add mystery to your writing".

At least they are smart enough to put up this disclaimer at bottom of the page:

"The translation provided by Chinese Alphabet is intended for personal use and entertainment only. Not recommended for tattoo artists to use this to tattoo their clients, iPhone app developers to localize Chinese apps, CIA agents to communicate national secrets, or security professionals to encrypt passwords."


At firs, it looks like pure gibberish - mixed Japanese and Chinese characters:

厉 カ ネ 羊

But looking more carefully, perhaps the idiot started with these characters:

But then he decided to switch from horizontal to vertical writing, and then split up the characters at the wrong places, making two characters into four.


By the way, what does mean anyway?
from: Herouth M.
date: Mon, Nov 30, 2009 at 1:43 AM
subject: [Fwd: Emailing: P1230294.JPG]

Hi. I'm from Israel. Love your blog.

The story goes like this: I study Japanese for several years now, and I can read about 1400 kanji more or less. One day, my co-worker approaches me with his cellphone. "Can you tell me what this says?" he asks me, showing me a photo of a piece of fabric carrying the kanji 私変態. I take a look, and reply "It's not grammatical, but it basically says "I'm a pervert".


"'I'm a pervert'. The first character means 'I', the other two mean 'pervert'", where did you get that from, anyway?

"It's on my 1.5 years old daughter's shirt!"

After LOLing for about 15 minutes straight, I kind of demanded that he get me a photo of the complete shirt so I can send it to Hanzi Smatter. And here is the shirt, complete with the cute, luckless 1.5 years old "hentai" herself.

I mean, yes, I have seen intentionally-made "hentai" shirts around the web (and on Hanzi Smatter). Adults buy them and wear them for the laughs. But who in his right mind would put this on a toddler's shirt, and sell it in a children's clothing store rather than a joke shop? I can't imagine.

Yes, I suppose it *could* mean "metamorphosis", but really, outside scientific contexts, it's almost always means "pervert". Or am I wrong?



Cute kid, though. The "bunny" or whatever kind of cute animal that is also on the shirt is a nice touch. We have obviously uncovered a diabolical plot to "pervert" innocent youth with inappropriate hanzi!

By the way, the T-shirt would be cuter and better if it was grammatically correct, like:

私、変態なんです。[I ... am a pervert.]
私、変態かも…[I might be a pervert...]
As it is, it sounds more like Tarzan-speak: "me - pervert." You kind of expect "you - Jane" next.
Remember Kinoki, the detox footpad, turned out to be a ripoff?

Alan and I present you, Osuke nutritional supplement:


For those who are interested, the product's laughable claims are detailed at its website.

However, we would like to point the readers to the five characters below OSUKE:


The phrase has virtually no meaning in either Chinese or Japanese. But, using our handy-dandy Decoder Card for Gibberish English-Chinese Tattoo font, guess what 行迎友先天 corresponds?


After reading the product's name is complete gibberish, would anyone pay US$37.95 for a bottle of this supplement?

Another set of Gibberish English-Chinese Font

Alan and I have discovered another set of gibberish English-Chinese font that many people are getting tattooed with. We have compiled this handy-dandy decoder card for those who want to be entertained deciphering gibberish tattoos:

Decoder Card for Gibberish English-Chinese Tattoo Font

Using decoder card, this tattoo below is "SABINA", in gibberish of course:


Update: Nov. 22, 2009 - Alan has created an updated version of Decoder Card:

In last night's episode of CSI NY titled "It Happened to Me", there was one scene where detectives were trying to figure out what killed their victims. At first, they thought the cause was these illegally imported insecticide chalk from China found in victim's apartment.

(Spoiler alert: No, it was not the insecticide chalk. Victim mismanaged killer's investment fund and lost all his money. Killer's wife had access to chemical from her work, and killer dumped it into victim's orange juice.)

CSI NY / Episode #123 / "It Happened to Me"

One would assume three lines of Chinese text on the packaging below "kills cockroach and ants effectively. keep away from baby and old man" are the same information in Chinese.

That is not true. Matter of fact, they are just gibberish.

If one would look closely, the first line of text and third line are identical. Last three characters in second line are repeat of first three.

So what do they mean?

Line 1 and 3 are:


精神和奠酒 loosely translates as "spirit and libation" and 酒吧 is "bar".

Line 2 is:


新鮮的肉 is "fresh meat" and 新鮮的 is "fresh".

What do "fresh meat" and "bar of spirit and libation" got to do with insecticide chalk?

Can everyone say CSI NY show prop fail?
from: Haribo S.

date: Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 7:50 AM
subject: Submission

Hi there.

One of my friends posted this on Facebook and claims it says "william beloved son", is this accurate?
Thanks :) love the blog


This is another case of Chinese-Japanese mismatch.

威廉 is Chinese phonetic transliteration of "William", however 愛息 is translated as "love [to] rest" when read as Chinese.

While Japanese for "William" is ウィリアム and 愛息 (あいそく) is interpreted as "beloved son/cute boy".

Ollie's Coming Back to Edmonton

Ollie's coming back!!!!!

Making the long trip from Montreal, he'll be at the studio November 10-17.

To check out his portfolio and book an apt, visit his website at and email him directly at

I got tattooed by him last time he was in town. You should too. Don't miss the boat, book and appointment. Do it now.
from: Anonymous
date: Sun, Oct 11, 2009 at 10:02 PM
subject: Another "Asian font" tattoo

Hi there,

Some guy in Facebook is showing off his tattoo.

As an avid reader of your site, I know that this tattoo is his name ‘K-H-A-L-E-D’ in the ridiculous ‘Asian font’.

I thought you might like to see it.

Post 38

I haven't had the time or energy to edit tattoo pics from this week... oh well...

However, the snow is starting to fall on Lake Lousie!!!! Beyond excited....

Pictures from the Lake Louise Lowdown. Last season= crap. This season will be amazing. I will chase the snow where ever it falls...

Post 37

A word from the wise, if you're REALLY excited to take a photo of something, make sure your camera's batteries are charged...... like if you're about to finish a really cool deer tattoo...... yes, I finished Kim's deer, but didn't even get one photo.... lesson learned....

So how about a few iPhone photos. They're really neat too.
Here's one of me tattooing Teagan's mom.
And one of her Dad waiting patiently for us to be done.

A few days ago Teagan and I wanted to spend a bit of time with the beautiful fall trees. I had the day off so I went out to Elk Island Park to see if they had fire pits for hot dogs and marshmallows. They do.

Toy Camera is a great application. It's always fun to see what the end result will be.
Before leaving, I realized that for the last week or so I've been driving around with a quart of wood, and axe, and a shovel in the back of my car. This makes me very happy. Very happy...

I picked Teagan up from work and we went back out to Elk Island for fire and BBQ. Two visits to Elk Island in one day, THIS made me very happy... VERY happy...
It was just getting nice and dark when we were visited by a buffalo.
I don't think this is a photo of Teagan seeing the buffalo, but let's pretend...

He was big, really big, so we packed up and left him to graze, just in case. I wish I snapped a photo of him, but again, he was really big, and only a few feet away... besides, we're on his turf, not the other way around. I respect the buffalo and their right to graze in private.

Post 36

There's been quite a bit of drawin' going on at the old log cabin the last few weeks, and new drawings mean new tattoos.

I love doing big tattoos, but there's also something extremely satisfying about doing one-shots. Start to finish, the client gets a tattoo in on sitting, I get a photo at the end. Awesomeness. Like Phil Holt said ' "Custom" is not synonymous with "huge" ', I couldn't agree more.

Today my friend Noel wanted a teacher tattoo, so that's what he got. He's a teacher. He already has a traditional skull on his other ankle by my friend Jesse Dicey. He got it a few years ago at the shop I owned in Vancouver, Free Range Studio, so I was more than happy to compliment that tattoo with a apple skull, complete with No 2 pencils (like the kind you used on the PXJTs, NUMBER TWOOOOOOO).

A week or two ago, Teagan's parents were in town for a short visit. Her Mom wanted to get her first tattoo. No problem.
Pretty sweet first tattoo. Start to finish none the less. Nice work Mom.

Both are photos of fresh tattoos, so please excuse the glare from the flash. Can't wait to get healed photos!

Tomorrow I get to finish Kim's deer. Super excited, can't wait.....
from: trellz
date: Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 12:13 PM
subject: tatoo submission

Should say stupid American, or stupid foreign person.

Picture 140

美国人 is Chinese for "American".

However 阿呆 (or あほ) is a localize dialect for "fool, jackass" in Japan's Kansai region. Where most Japanese would use 馬鹿 as "stupid". Also, 米囯人 is Japanese for "American".

is correct Chinese for "stupid".
In the latest issue of Wired magazine, there was a piece titled "10 Best Things We'll Say to Our Grandkids".


According to the magazine, English translation for #6 is:

"English used to be the dominant language. Crazy, huh?"

Dr. Mair and I both noticed the printed Chinese is not correct.

统治语言 (dominate language), is two English phrases spliced together with an odd sense of colonialism. 官方語言 (official language) or 國際語言 (international language) would be better fitting.

疯狂 does not have the same contextual meaning as "crazy", rather "frenzied, unbridled; insane". In this case, a better phrase would be "傻不傻", or "isn't that silly?"

Perhaps this is a nod to Firefly, where mixture of Chinese Mandarin phrases were added into the show's dialogue.


Post 35

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited out to Deadly Tattoos Inc. in Calgary to work with my friends. I had a great time. Truly an inspiring yet humbling trip. I didn't take too many photos because I was completely overwhelmed with all the action around me. At the end of the last day, I did remember to take out iPhone and snap a few.

James and Dan....
...and Dave

Dave painting one of the blanks I brought down

Dan Tattooin'
James Tattooin' Belinda who was in town from Switzerland
Next time I'm bringing my bike....
...parking lot out back of the hotel....
Thanks for the AMAZING week!

I'll be back in Calgary working at Deadly October 26-30. Email me or call the studio (403-264-3091) to book and apt.
from: Victor H. Mair
date: Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 12:00 PM
subject: tattoo

Hi Tian,

Perhaps you can post this for me on HANZISMATTER.



The attached picture, sent to me by Jonathan Smith, shows a basketball player's "Chinese" tattoos. They read 康女宀 from top to bottom: KANG1 ("peace, vigor") NÜ3 ("woman") MIAN2 ("shelter, thatch"). Yet the proud owner claims that they are "my initials in Chinese, M.A.D."

Marquis Antoine Daniels

My best guess as to how this may have happened is that the basketball player approached a tattooist who was minimally literate (or illiterate) in Chinese or English (or both) and showed him / her his initials, requesting the tattooist to "write them in Chinese symbols / characters / ideographs / hieroglyphs / pictographs / whatever." The initials may have been more or less ornately written, with the result that the tattooist came up with these three HANZI as his / her best representation of what he / she was seeing. For example, if you twist around in different orientations, you can sort of see an "A" there. Ditto for the other two HANZI.




Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature
Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
University of Pennsylvania

Welcome to the Log Cabin

I hope you enjoy your stay. I'm changing the format of the blog a bit. Hopefully as the leaves start to change colour, which they already have, there will be more and more activity around the log cabin. Photos, music, sketches, lots of fun...

I've also uploaded a new website. Have a look around. It's easy for me to publish and update right here from the log cabin, so there will be plenty more shenanigans over there as well. It's up and I'd say about 85% complete. Over the next few days I'll be opening up The Gift Shop.....

Thanks again for visiting,


Post 34

It's been a while.... this summer/August has been the busiest I've ever had. I'm way behind on answering emails, and I've fallen asleep while tying to edit photos for the blog on more than one occasion.

However, I guess being busy means being productive. I've finished a few bigger pieces and have gotten to tattoo some really fun 1-2 session tattoos, especially this last week.

I tattooed a deer with wheat blowing in the wind on Kim the other day. I Love this tattoo so much. Thanks Kim!!!

A few more from this summer...

more soon...
Peter has forward me this interesting story about a woman's tattoo experience.

"I have four Japanese symbols across my back, gleaned from a Japanese-English dictionary.


Yes, it would seem that in our haste, nobody took the semicolon from the dictionary entry out of the design and it now lives for eternity on my skin."


Peter and I are shaking our heads regarding:

She is apparently more upset that there's a semicolon attached to her tattoo than by the fact that the tattoo itself is terribly done.

According to the tattoo's owner, Naomi Dunford, "It was supposed to say 'Mother Daughter Sister Wife'. Then wife was a pain in the ass and it was supposed to say 'beauty.' Who the hell knows what it means at this point?"
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