Tattooing is an ancient practice dating from the Neolithic times. Ötzi the Iceman, a well-preserved mummy found on the border of Austria and Italy in 1991, bore 57 separate tattoos. Ötzi is believed to have lived about 3,330 BC and it is speculated that some of these tattoos may have been a sort of therapy used to alleviate symptoms of Osteochondrosis (a disorder found present in Ötzi’s ankle and knee joints), over 2000 years before the Chinese pioneered acupuncture.

Tattoos have been used in many societies as a rite of passage over the centuries. They’ve marked the rank, status, sexual allure, bravery, religion and fertility of an individual, and they’ve also been used negatively as a means of identifying slaves, outcasts, convicts and prisoners of war. From the Celts, Picts and Maori to the Japanese, Polynesians and Mayans, tattooing is an art that is as popular as ever across the globe. Public opinion on tattoos is divided, but suffice to say; it’s not going out of vogue any time soon. If you’re prepared to spend a lot of cash visiting a professional tattoo artist, you too can have your very own work of art indelibly inked on your skin.

Britain is one of the most tattooed nations in Europe. You most likely know someone who has a tattoo. You might even have one yourself. Our favourite celebrities have them. It goes without saying that when you are planning a tattoo, you should probably do your homework, especially when it comes to tattoos in another language.

David Beckham has his wife Victoria’s name across his forearm in Hindi, but it’s misspelt. It reads ‘Vihctoria’.

Rihanna, singer, has ‘rebelle Fleur’ tattooed across her neck in French, problem is, the word order is wrong. It should read ‘Fleur rebelle’.

Hayden Panettiere, actress of ‘Heroes’ fame, had ‘live without regrets’ tattooed down her back in Italian, but unfortunately it was misspelt by the tattooist with ‘vivere senza rimipanti’. It shouldn’t have the extra ‘i’ after the ‘m’.

These examples shouldn’t put you off getting a tattoo; however it is wise to do a little bit of research before you get inked for life, especially if you opt for a foreign-language tattoo.

This is where agencies like Wolfestone Translation can help. Wolfestone Translation only uses native speakers for their translations, ensuring that you receive an accurate translation at a competitive price.

Having a tattoo can be a very fulfilling experience so don’t walk through life with a tattoo typo. It may look good to the untrained eye, but one day, some time, some place, someone will find out…


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by Wolfestone Admin

2 responses to “Why a bad translation can really get under your skin”

  1. David Jones says:

    Hi Katherine

    Great article and a nice selection of cautionary tales. I often tell clients that economising with a poorly translated website is like making a bad TV commercial and leaving it on the air forever. I suppose a poorly translated tattoo would be the human equivalent. My favourite tattoo story concerns the actor Johnny Depp. When he got engaged to Winona Ryder he had “Winona Forever” tattooed on his arm. When they split up he couldn’t face the painful prospect of scrubbing out the whole thing so he just had two letters erased. It now says “Wino Forever”.

  2. Maitetxu says:

    In Euskera ona means the good one when it is placed at the end of the word because if it is on its own like: etorri ona = come here, it is similar with Aukerarik onena which stands for the good opportunities…as we make the plural using letter “k”…over 35,000 years ago tattoos were mainly used to mark those who were healers like in the Tribe Zelandoni
    located where The Massif Central stands today, I have visited their caves with paintings going back more than 100,000 years like those in Altamira for instance. Basque people or Euskaldunak covered most of Europe over a million years ago. We never outcast any one so this is why we have been shrinking down to just seven provinces at present, with so many wars and betrayals along the line is admirable how anyone survived!

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