Meredith Warren shared the meme above on Facebook and it inspired this blog post. Apparently it isn’t just Hebrew and Aramaic tattoos that get badly botched (which I’ve seen much more of—I share one of my all-time favorites at the end of this post). People do the same thing in ancient Greek. See the above for one example. It is good to see the Real Housewives plus Smudge the cat with salad meme put to good use in the service of classical linguistics and language acquisition.
If you must get a tattoo, never, ever, get one in a language you do not know completely fluently. Seriously, what is the value, significance, or symbolism of having something permanently inked on your skin that you cannot read, and only believe means something because of what someone else has told you it means?
Since the only way to fight memes is with memes, and the only way to persuade people to turn back from foolish endeavors is with cat memes, I felt is necessary to make the following:
Steve Caruso used to blog about bad Hebrew and Aramaic tattoos regularly. There are hosts of them online. So many things can go wrong. You type it in Word and it puts the letters in the wrong order. You save an image and it ends up pixilated when you enlarge it for the tattoo artist. You trust someone who says online “this is X” and don’t know enough about the language or topic to realize what would be obvious to someone with even a very basic familiarity: the person you are entrusting your skin to is lying, or has no idea what they are talking about.
If you do not heed this warning, you’ll reap the consequences and learn this lesson on your skin, as they say in Romanian. Can you tell whether I am trustworthy when it comes to such a matter? Am I a trustworthy authority? If you cannot tell, you see my point. And if you can, please apply the same criteria and ask the same questions when getting a tattoo. Or better still, get one only if it is in a language you know, and know not just a little but well.
Here is a previous blog post on how getting a tattoo in a language you don’t know can go horribly and hilariously wrong. This is one of my favorite examples. But there is no shortage of them. I am not aware of any formal study of the subject, but my guess would be that it is the minority of tattoos in ancient languages that are error-free…