We’ve translated our fair share of tattoo wording – usually something
that means a lot to the client and often very difficult to make
meaningful in the other language. We often get asked to translate a
name for one’s beloved with comments like: “I’ve been trying to
translate my boyfriend’s name, Fred Bloggs, to Chinese, but I keep
getting different opinions! I want to get a tattoo.” Duh – first
comment, don’t do it; but if you really want to, second piece of advice:
there isn’t any set translation of names – especially a name like Fred
Bloggs – Fred Flintstone maybe, or some other well known first names
like John, Mary, Elizabeth, Jesus – you get the idea.
An article in the Sunday Age – Why everything sounds better in Double
Dutch - on 20 March cites some hilarious examples – the best one is
probably “Strength and Honour” proudly emblazoned on this bloke’s chest
(in Japanese). As he jogged along, the local kids in Japan laughed and
he later found that the wording actually read “small penis”.
has the full article.
We feature a few other hilarious examples in our Translation Bloopers page – we welcome your contributions: