If you’re going to get Chinese or Japanese characters permanently inked into your skin, consult someone who reads the language. Basketball player Marquis Daniels of the Boston Celtics thought he’d gotten his initials on his arm, but instead he got a tattoo that reads “healthy woman roof.” And when singer Britney Spears got a tattoo of the Chinese word for “mysterious,” it turned out to mean “strange.”
So why is it so many tattoos get lost in translation? Flash sheets -the patterns used by most tattoo artists- are rarely fact-checked. Instead, they’re passed around informally from one professional to the next.