Probably the most tired cliché in travel writing is “where east meets west,” though in the age of globalization it does offer immense new comic possibilities. Take tattoos. The fad here in the U.S. is to get inked with some supposedly obscure and profound Chinese character or phrase that means something like “woman of deep soul,” when it is much more likely that the inker is pulling something randomly off the internet. In fact, according to the story linked below, “One Chinese tattooist said he had seen a Westerner with the character meaning ‘gas’ on his arm, instead of ‘spirit’.” Do we really think most tattoo artists actually hold masters in fine arts in East Asian studies? (Actually, if the Occupy people are right about worthless college degrees. . .)
Well guess what the tattoo fad is in China these days? Yes, you could see this coming: tattoos in English, as The Telegraph reports today. This is going to make for some truly awkward conversations at the next meeting of the International Amalgamated Brotherhood of Tattoo Artists convention.