Regrettable tattoo

I do not have any tattoos. I’ve admired many, and have thought of some it would be nice to have, but I always overthink them. The classic “Mary + PZ” on a heart-shaped background appealed to me, once upon a time, but it was a little trite, and I feared that once I put it in indelible words on my skin, that’s when she would leave me. And now, after 40+ years, it’s both trite and redundant.

I also love the art of the Coast Salish peoples, and have a particular salmon design in mind that I wouldn’t mind making permanent, but…I’m white as they come, belonging to the ethnic group that displaced and killed those people. It would be appropriation in the truest sense, so no, I have held off.

So I don’t think it’s going to happen now.

I can console myself with the thought that at least I’m not one of those people who gets stupid drunk and has something ridiculous inked on. Or worse, someone who puts deep thought into a tattoo that is supremely idiotic, like this one.

(Warning: below the fold in case you’re a sensitive classics teacher who cries at abuse of your discipline.)

That is a fellow who wanted to put up a warning sign for potential mates. Can you imagine if he got lucky one night, brought his date to his hotel room, started to shed his clothes, and they got one look at that, stopped, and said, “No, I can’t do this.”? At least he’ll never have a partner who is significantly smarter than he is.

I’m also imagining him at the beach, his life a living hell, because he keeps getting picked on by classics professors who come up and kick sand at him, until he’s driven to write off for a Latin textbook and study Cicero and Caesar. So maybe it will have a happy outcome?


  1. Rich Woods says

    Assuming the numerals are there to indicate an American date representation (I think we can safely assume this genius is unfamiliar with kalends), he’s glorifying the start of the occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion. The day before was the day on which Dubya made his infamous ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech.

  2. says

    Maybe a giant spiderweb backpiece with 2 spiders on it, one of whom just webbed “mary + pz” and the other is throwing a heart thought bubble.

  3. OverlappingMagisteria says

    This reminds me of the lazy “Russian” text you see sometimes where they just swap Я for R, И for N, Ф for O, and Ї for I. Knowing even a bit of Cyrillic makes it incomprehensible. Cyrillic is not just backwards Latin letters, people!

  4. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    Adam Savage got a useful tattoo, an accurate ruler on his forearm. What handy reference material would make your lab work easier?

  5. Tethys says

    Eiy! They managed to abuse the Greek alphabet and a supposed quote of J. Caesar. That is not an E!

    I would go with runic script to avoid cultural appropriation but it’s been tainted by nazis both historic and modern.

  6. dogugotw says

    I came to tats later in life. I could never think of anything I’d want to make a permanent memorial to. Sometimes life points you in the right way.

    My first was when I was around 50. I was about to buy my 3rd wedding ring (one wife) because I kept destroying them and/or my finger changed size and shape. Buying yet another piece of gold that would inevitably need to be replaced I opted to get a ring tat. Now I can never lose it, get it caught in machinery, or otherwise need another replacement. A bonus is that I told my wife if we ever did divorce, I’d give her the finger!

    The second was to commemorate my last flight as pilot in command. The flight didn’t end well (upside down in a cow field…not graceful) but I lived so there’s that. The tat is a reminder that no matter how much you think you know about , you don’t really know diddly.

  7. cartomancer says

    As a sensitive Classics teacher, I appreciate the heads up. Unfortunately the popularity of poorly rendered Latin and Greek tattoos (and monstrous chimerae like this one) is on the rise of late. I think the tattoo-bearing classes have got bored of plundering the alphabets of the Far East and decided on something with a little more cultural cachet close to home.

    Usually it involves google translate. Which is rubbish for Latin and even more rubbish for Greek. So rubbish that I tell my students they are free to use it if they want, the punishment being they will get the mark that their translation deserves.

    As an added strain on my mental wellbeing I used to frequent the gay sauna clubs and bathhouses of London before the Pandemic hit. The number of poorly rendered Latin and Greek tattoos on display there was truly eye-watering. I am sorely tempted to have all the noun declensions tattooed on my legs and all the verb conjugations on my arms so I can point out with authority where these people are going wrong. It will no doubt do nothing for my chances of having sex in these places, but it’s not like that ever happened anyway, so I might as well have some fun with it.

  8. David C Brayton says

    My first reaction was befuddlement. Then it clicked. Gawd, that is funny as hell.

  9. jacksprocket says

    My friend’s daughter qualified as a medical doctor, and they held a party to celebrate. She looked utterly sophisticated in her low- backed dress, showing off a little tattoo in the middle of her back- a Chinese character. I asked her what it meant… she didn’t know… in the end we decided that it probably said “Pat Pending” like on all my sister’s dollies.

  10. blf says

    @12, Yeah, I was also befuddled as well… then the click! followed by bouncing off the walls laughing.

  11. christoph says

    An image of an axolotl would make a really cool tattoo. It’s like a smiley face, but with external gills!

  12. jrkrideau says

    @ 6 OverlappingMagisteria

    the lazy “Russian” text you see sometimes

    Я for R drives me nuts but I do not think I have seen the other horrors, for which I am grateful.

    Ї for I? Ukrainian? The only Cyrillic I know is Russian.

  13. opposablethumbs says

    O proclamation of virility triumphant, the mighty conqueror’s cry of
    [letter from a different alphabet]PH
    [other letter from the same different alphabet]PH” !

    (or should we just embrace the combo spirit and say ‘NSPF, NFDF, NFCF’? Also, does anyone know how to work out wt everloving f, if anything at all, would be represented by the numbers?)

  14. komarov says

    Great Scott, it took me an embarrassingly long time to realise the phi was being used an an I with a circle. It’s pretty much as described in #6, the brain refuses to lock onto the obvious intent when the real symbols are already familiar. Knowing the actual quote made no difference at all to this, oddly enough. At least this tracks with my (in)ability to do the types of puzzles that rely on symbols or modified symbols.

  15. says

    @#16, jrkrideau:

    I am not going to bother digging it out of the Internet, but there’s an excellent cartoon somebody did to the effect of “I’m a new hire and I need to fill out my paperwork” and the person at the desk, wearing a cat ear barrette and surrounded by lounging housecats says “Nyet, you are looking for H.R.; this is НЯ.”

  16. OverlappingMagisteria says

    #16 jrkrideau: “Ї for I? Ukrainian? The only Cyrillic I know is Russian.”

    Shoot. Yea I’m Ukrainian. Perhaps I haven’t seen that one in fake Russian, but just assumed it, when looking a a Ukee keyboard.

    #20 The Vicar:
    And I just read “НЯ” as “Nyah.”

  17. wzrd1 says

    @dogugotw, did the NTSB pop by to laugh?
    Any landing where your license survives is a good landing-ish. ;)
    Lemme guess, pushed what should’ve been a TOGO and porpoised? At least the propeller isn’t turned into modern art, with a twisted shaft to boot. Still, that got expensive and exciting really quickly.

    For those flight challenged, when your vertical stabilizer is projecting in the direction of the ground, you are decidedly not in the proper configuration to land.

  18. lumipuna says

    komarov – I don’t even read Greek letters (mostly), and the visual joke wasn’t obvious to me at all. I only figured what it says because Caesar was named in the caption. And then it took me a while to start seeing the words as intended.

    I get that some people wouldn’t see this as cringey, or might choose to be cringey on purpose. I truly don’t get how someone would see this as a great joke worth tattooing.

  19. felixmagister says

    My first thought on seeing it was “I don’t recognize any of those equations”. It took me a while to realize what the intent was- perhaps my brain was trying to protect me.