Why It's Good to be a Polyglot

Story Submitted by Roger:

Sonia was an online find with more personality than any dozen girls I had met prior.  She informed me that she had two tattoos, one of which, she said, "Is actually in a place I can show you, and it's pertinent to your interests."

My aforementioned interests had to do with my studies of business with an emphasis on Chinese markets.  Sonia's tattoo, apparently, was of a Chinese symbol.  I looked forward to seeing it on our date.  I picked out a Chinese restaurant.

We were eating our appetizer when she showed me the tattoo, on her upper left chest.  As she had said, it was a single Chinese character in black ink, and I recognized it immediately.  She said, "It means 'memory.'"

The thing is, that isn't what it said.  I looked at it for a good minute, and concluded that she had been duped.  The question was: should I tell her or not?

She answered the question for me a moment later with a smile and the words, "You know Chinese.  Does it really say that?"

I had to be honest.  I said, "No.  It actually says something else."

She glanced down at it and her smile disappeared.  I was about to potentially ruin this girl's life, and I felt awful for it.  Still, I had to be honest.  I said, "It's pronounced 'fen.'  It means, 'dung.'"

"No, it doesn't," she said, very tense.

I said, "It does.  I'm sorry.  Can you go back to where you got it?"

She leaned back and covered it with her blouse.  She said, "I have a Chinese friend who read it for me and he said that it means 'memory.'  I know you're lying."

"I'm not."

"Shut up!  That's enough!  It means 'memory'!  It means 'memory'!"

Right hand to God, her tattoo meant "dung."  I knew what the symbol was for memory, and that wasn't it.  I knew "dung" because I studied up on Chinese swear words and obscenities, because I never knew when they'd come in handy.

I thought about asking a waiter to settle the matter, as we were in a Chinese restaurant, but opted to quit while I had a chance.

Again, though, Sonia was ahead of me.  When our waiter returned, she asked him to read her tattoo.

"Fen," he said, and gave her a funny look.  "Why fen?"

She paled visibly, glanced at me, covered it up with her hand, and said, "I have to go," and she left.  I followed her out to try and calm her down, but she took off at a steady run, and I didn't want to restaurant to think that we were ditching the bill.  I returned, paid it, and took her leftovers home for myself.

I wrote her a pleasant e-mail, telling her that she had a lot of solutions available to her and that I'd love to see her again.  She never wrote back.


  1. That's rough, but you showed you're a classy guy. Good luck out there.

  2. Aaaaaand that's why you should always do your own research on foreign language tattoos, or just NOT GET THEM in the first place if you don't already speak the language. It took me all of three seconds to look up the different characters in Google Translate- her tattoo is 粪, when it should be 内存, or perhaps 记忆.

    For more stupid tattoos: http://hanzismatter.blogspot.com/

  3. Baku, be nice. Agnes was probably drunk when she obtained it, and I think that it flatters her figure very nicely.

  4. I wonder if the other tattoo, presumably in a more intimate location, is a Chinese character too. If so, I dread to think of what the happy go lucky tattooist might done - 臭屄 ?

  5. ^ HAHAHAHA, that's messed up!

  6. I was hoping someone would link to hanzismatter here. It's one of my other favorite blogs.

  7. Ouch. But better to tell her now than potentially having it bother you for the rest of your life.

  8. Anonyme/Baku: Translation please?

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. ^ What Kat said! XD


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