I’m sure, by now, if you pay attention to anything Japanese or related, you’ve found that a major US pop star with lots of beauty and very little talent has decided to get a tattoo with Japanese kanji.
It is supposed to say “seven rings”, which I assume is the title of either a movie or a song she darkened the door of, but instead, apparently, it says “BBQ grill”.
Even though Ariana Grande and I have little in common – she’s a beautiful young talentless star, I’m a balding middle-aged guy with more talent in my little finger – I understand why one would want to get a tattoo in kanji. It’s got that foreign exoticism to it, kind of a hidden meaning that only you and a few billion other people in the world might understand, and the logographs are actually rather pretty in many cases. So I understand the temptation.
But, seriously. If you don’t know Japanese, don’t.
Let’s set aside the issue of trivializing a beautiful and ancient language to make a fashion statement and focus on the fact that one is making a permanent or semi-permanent alteration to one’s body without fully understanding what the heck they’re actually drawing on.
Google translate is not a substitute for knowing Japanese.
Running it by a native speaker is only marginally more a substitute for knowing Japanese.
Learning enough Japanese that you can be confident that a kanji or jyukugo means exactly what you think it does is the only way to be sure that what’s going on your body is what you expect is going on your body.
Plus if you learn Japanese, it gives you much more of a right, in my opinion anyway, to use the kanji in ways it was not intended. It’s much less disrespectful to a culture to first learn, understand, and appreciate the culture. After which, of course, you can go ahead and use the kanji as you will, secure in the knowledge that you’re neither embarrassing yourself or disrespecting a proud, ancient culture by being stupid and thoughtless.
Learn Japanese, miss Grande. Or at the least make some Japanese friends. Surely either of things are a better use of your time than whatever you do that makes you think it’s a good idea to look up “7 rings” on google translate and take that to a tattoo artist that doesn’t know any better either.
Our Japanese friends deserve just a bit more respect from you than that, don’t you think?