Oops! That's "seven rings", not "hibachi"

« previous post | next post »

We haven't written about tattoo fiascos for awhile.  Here's a humdinger on Ariana Grande's left palm, in Japanese:

The two characters are shichirin 七輪.  This is to celebrate her new single, "7 Rings", and the characters do indeed mean "seven" and "hoop; circle; ring; wheel".  Unfortunately, when you combine them into one word pronounced shichirin, they mean "small charcoal grill; hibachi").

If Ariana Grande wanted to have a tattoo meaning "seven rings", she should have gotten one that read nanantsu no yubiwa 七つの指輪.

After all the hullabaloo over the initial mistake, she tried to have it "fixed" by adding the character for "finger" (yubi 指) and a heart:

So now her amended tattoo reads "small charcoal grill finger ♡”.

Selected readings

"Ariana Grande's New Kanji Tattoo Is An Unfortunate Mistake," by Brian Ashcraft, Kotaku (1/30/19) — source of the first photograph above

"Ariana Grande Tries And Fails To Fix Botched Japanese Tattoo:  The best laid tattoo plans of pop stars often go awry," 

"What does your tattoo mean? " (11/5/17)

"Tattoos as a means of communication " (9/1/12)

"Censored belly, Tibetan tattoo " (8/28/17)

"The value of a tattoo in English " (8/28/13)

"Chinese tattoos " (8/3/13)

"Queen of the World " (3/10/12)

"Oops (and apologies) " (7/11/18)

"Oops: a listening guide " (6/28/10)

[H.t. Nathan Hopson, Ross Bender, Mark Metcalf, Julia Wang, and many other friends]


  1. Bathrobe said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 1:28 am

    In all of this, people overlook the wider source of the problem: 輪 as rin occurs in lexicalised expressions in Japanese.

    三輪 sanrin 'three rings/wheels' is found in 三輪車 sanrinsha 'tricycle'.

    五輪 gorin 'five rings' is an alternative name of the Olympics.

    七輪 shichirin 'seven rings' has been lexicalised as the name of a type of grill.

    Had it not been for the lexicalised meaning, 七輪 might even have squeaked through — but it didn't.

    Another famous ring is Sauron's ring, as celebrated in this verse:

    One Ring to rule them all
    One Ring to find them
    One Ring to bring them all
    and in the Darkness bind them.

    This is how the famous verse is rendered in Japanese according to one site on the Internet (unfortunately I can't confirm that this is from the published translation). The translation uses non-lexicalised expressions using ~つの ~tsu no:

    ひとつの指輪はすべてを統べ、 hitotsu no yubiwa wa subete o torae,
    ひとつの指輪はすべてを見つけ、 hitotsu no yubiwa wa subete o mitsuke,
    ひとつの指輪はすべてを捕らえ、 hitotsu no yubiwa wa subete o sube,
    暗闇の中につなぎとめる。 kurayami no naka ni tsunagitomeru

    Note that 'one ring' is ひとつの指輪 hitotsu no yubiya 'one ring'.

    The verse also refers to the disposition of the other rings:

    Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
    Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
    Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
    One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne

    In Japanese these lines are (we follow the English order; the translation transposes lines):

    三つの指はは、空の下なるエルフの王に mittsu no yubiwa wa, sora no shita no erufu no ō ni
    七つの指輪は、岩の館のドワーフの君に nanatsu no yubiwa wa, iwa no yakata no dowāfu no kimi ni
    九つは死すべき運命の人の子に kokonotsu wa shisubeki sadame no hito no ko ni
    一つ暗き御座の冥王のため hitotsu kuraki mikura no meiō no tame

    So yes, the Lord of the Rings translates 'seven rings' as 七つの指輪 nanatsu no yubiwa, not as 七輪 shichirin.

  2. Bathrobe said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 1:32 am

    三つの指はは should have been 三つの指輪は.

  3. David said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 5:10 am

    And don't forget 五輪書, which by the way, I think it should've been translated as "The Book of Five Elements" and not "The Book of Five Rings".

  4. Bathrobe said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 8:17 am

    And also, 輪 rin is a counting word for flowers.

    一輪の花 ichirin no hana is 'one flower'. 7輪の花 shichirin no hana is 'seven flowers'.

  5. Michael Watts said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 5:18 pm

    Wait, 七輪 shichirin is being taken to mean "grill" because it's the name of a grill brand, and the name of the brand means "seven rings"?

    That looks to me like using 七輪 to mean "seven rings" is fine. The grills think that's what it means, no? If a Tim Horton opened an arcade called "Tim Horton's", who would tell him that "Tim Horton's" can't be the name of an arcade because it already means "donut shop"? Surely what it really means is "affiliated with Tim Horton"?

  6. Gruen said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 10:17 pm

    @Michael Watts
    I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that 'shichirin' is a brand name; it's an entirely generic name for a portable charcoal grill. In any case, if someone had SIX FLAGS tattooed on them in English it wouldn't be unreasonable if the first thing that came to mind was an amusement park even if it could clearly refer to something else. It's not at all self-evident that the primary meaning of 七輪 ought be seven (finger) rings even if the oven didn't exist anyway.

  7. Bathrobe said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 10:28 pm

    I believe that 七輪 is the traditional name for it, at least in Edo. According to Japanese Wikipedia, there are several etymological explanations for the name but none is accepted as authoritative.

  8. Arthur Baker said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 10:51 pm

    I was going to write "Never get a tattoo in a language in which you aren't fluent". Then I decided to go with just the first four words.

  9. Boon said,

    February 8, 2019 @ 11:58 am

    Ariana can simply say it's Chinese, not Japanese. Then there'll be no problem.

RSS feed for comments on this post