I don’t know how I forgot to share this story, but I did, and now I’ll let you laugh with me.
For some reason, Western white people think it’s cool to get Chinese characters permanently inked on their bodies. I just ask that if you’re thinking of doing this, please get a second opinion on a decent translation from a Chinese reading/writing/speaking person. After all, if you don’t keep it forever, it’s going to be painful to get rid of. If you want to be amused, there are countless examples of foreigners’ Chinese tattoos here.
But back to my story. Several weeks ago I was in a restaurant and I noticed that the man at the table next to me had some fairly prominent tattoos on his arms. Upon a closer look, and pretending I wasn’t as interested as I actually was, I saw that he had some not-small Chinese characters on each forearm. The characters nearest to me were 复印. I felt sorry for the guy, because I don’t think he realized that his right arm said “to duplicate”… as in “to make photocopies.”
So… word to the wise… consult your trustworthy Chinese friend before you get your Asian ink.