A diamond and a tattoo may be forever, but love isn’t. Getting the name of a beloved one tattooed is one of the oldest practices in Western tattooing. A variety of reasons contribute to getting a name as part of a tattoo. The most common is usage of the tattoo as a statement of membership, often seen in gang tattoos where the gang name or city is rendered. Sometimes the symbolism is for someone who has passed away and the tattoo is a remembrance. This style of tattoo has seen a resurgence this past year in the the wake of the events of September 11, 2001.
Celebrity love tattoo can easily illustrate the pitfalls of the lovers tattoo. Most often however, the name tattoo is rendered in the heat of passion, only to cool too soon after the design is healed. The classic Norman Rockwell illustration portrays the image of a sailor with an armful of girls names, each one dutifully crossed out, with the tattooist adding yet another one. Names of ex-lovers is the number two reason for a tattoo being edited or covered up at a later date.
Johnny Depp’s “Winona forever” arm tattoo has been edited to read “Wino forever.” Pamela Anderson’s “Tommy” finger tattoo was redone to read “Mommy” when they split. And Tom Arnold has to look at the portrait of ex-wife Rosanne on his chest in the mirror every morning. Angelina Jolie has had several tattoos lasered off (most notably a large "Billy Bob") and still others have been covered with other new tattoos. Sports celeb David Beckham has his wife's name on his arm in Hindu script, and his three sons names in different spots on his back.
Julia Roberts fared much better with the tattoo she bears from her Kiefer Sutherland days. The actress has a small heart with the Japanese kanji for strength etched on her shoulder blade, a gift from the actor who felt it should illustrate her “strength of heart.” Her tattoo is a good example of how to build personal meaning into a design without limiting the life span of the image. Instead of focusing on any one person, the tattoo captures an emotional feeling and celebrates it. I once got tattooed with a boyfriend. We got a Mayan glyph that signified “to know, feel and remember,” a meaning that still supports that tattoo all these years later and all the events that surrounded it, with the attachment to the relationship just a part of a bigger whole.
Japanese kanji are a popular component of Western tattooing in that the beautiful calligraphic forms present ways of stating your message without everyone being able to read it. The challenge presented is to get the correct native language forms, so that when a native reader sees your tattoo, the translation is appropriate. Be careful, too many stories exist of tattoo mistakes!
Write Your Name in Kanji
LOTS of people e-mail me, asking if I know how they can get a name translated into kanji for a tattoo. This is the book that will let you take a first or last name and compose the appropriate characters yourself.