Cool Tat, Too Bad It's Gibberish


Demon Bird Moth Balls sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Maybe Marv Albert (or better yet, Steve Kerr) could use it on the next Phoenix Suns national telecast.

even Kenny “the Jet” Smith could pipe up in response to Ernie Johnson's recap, on the TNT Inside the NBA show, “Demon Bird Moth Balls!”, while Charles Barkley giggled. Anything, as long as it gets said at least once on live television.

Cool Tat, Too Bad It's Gibberish - New York Times Sports Illustrated recently featured a spread on N.B.A. players' Chinese tattoos, quoting the Chicago Bulls center Tyson Chandler as saying he checked with Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets before getting a tattoo meaning “love.” ... Marquis Daniels, of the Dallas Mavericks, thought he was getting his initials in Chinese characters but what his arm actually says is “healthy woman roof,” Mr. Tang said. Similarly, Shawn Marion of the Phoenix Suns was under the impression that his nickname, “the Matrix,” was tattooed on his leg, but Mr. Tang says the inscription translates as something like “demon bird moth balls.” ... Errors are common enough to be good business for tattoo removal specialists, and to fuel a blog,, which posts photographs of botched tattoos accompanied by sardonic commentary from Tian Tang, a Chinese-born engineering student.

The blog takes the name Hanzi Smatter from the Chinese term for the ideograms that are composed of as many as 30 strokes and take years of practice to write fluently. Hanzi are also used extensively in Japan, where they are referred to as kanji, and to a lesser degree in South Korea.

Maybe because I'm an old fart, but if I ever did get a tattoo in a foreign language, I'd make sure the tattoo meant what the tattoo artist said it did. Probably a moot point, as I don't have any tattoos at the moment, nor intentions of adding one. Though, I do drink tequila occasionally, so (nearly) anything is possible. Also, I studied Chinese for three years in college, so could look some phrase up in a dictionary. Sanskrit is more undulating and fluid than Hanzi anyway, seems to translate better onto a skin canvas.

Tattoo Kangnuumian

Marquis Daniels “Healthy Woman Roof” tat

Although the first two characters 康 and 女 are recognizable, the last character is only a partial that represents “roof”. Even if the characters were phonetically transliterated, they are still way off from “MAD”.

What does his tattoo really mean?

“Healthy Woman Roof”

the Matrix

Tattoo Shawnmarion Moniaozhang-1

The three “Chinese lettering” Mr. Marion sporting does not really translate as “The Matrix” in Chinese.

魔 = demon, evil spirits; magic power
鳥 = bird
樟 = camphor (a plant where its chemical exact is used for making moth balls)

The movie “The Matrix” is translated as 黑客帝国 (“Hackers’ Empire”). “Matrix”, as in mathematical and logical condition, is translated as 矩陣.

plus a few others

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lol. So who is going to tell Marquis Daniels?

Actually, it's probably from its Japanese reading matorikusu (demon is ma, bird is tori, camphor is kusu), although the actual Japanese title for the movie was not given any ideographic characters and was written in the phonetic Katakana script.

At least now it makes a little sense, though.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on April 3, 2006 12:05 AM.

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