Last week, an amusing article surfaced which featured a bad Hebrew tattoo observed in an Arkansas Walmart. Several people tagged me or pointed me to this article. So, just for fun, here's my list of the most common Hebrew Tattoo Errors. Below is a picture of the tattoo in question, followed by a moral. A link to the article is at the very bottom.
1. Line break/left justification errors. This happens when the tattoo artist/patron doesn’t know where to make line breaks. Since Hebrew reads from right to left, line breaks should be right justified, not left justified. The result is that something crazy like this happens:
only a test.
This is a test,
2. Formatting errors. This happens when the tattoo artist formats the text based on what they apparently perceive as the most attractive layout. This is done without awareness of the flow or structure of the text. The result is that it gets scrambled, something like this:
to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”
, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated
ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent
Four score and seven years
3. Spelling/form/part of speech errors. These happen when: a.) a Hebrew word is misspelled, b.) the wrong form of a letter is used (e.g. final form letters), c.) construct form is used when the word stands alone (e.g. “Dreams of”), i.e. when the absolute form should be used (e.g. “Dream,”) or, d.) when the wrong accents are used, e.g. when conjunctive accents are used for words standing alone, etc. Compareאֱלֹהִ֑ים with אֱלֹהִים Notice the first word has an angle bracket looking mark under the 3rd letter. This mark is an accent signaling its placement in the sentence. In other words, this form would never occur alone. A tattoo of this single word with the accent shows that it was pulled straight out of a sentence.
4. Syntax errors. Similar to 3.c, this happens when, a.) the wrong grammatical form of a term is chosen. Example: Imagine seeing a word tattoo worn by an Asian man that reads “Dreamed.” What he probably hoped to say was, “Dream;” or when, b.) two contiguous words occur with wrong or missing prepositions or conjunctions. E.g. He ran [up] [the] mountain.
5. Wrong word/wrong meaning. This is one of the most common and is likely what happened in the above pic. This happens when someone has a meaning for a term in mind, but the actual Hebrew/Aramaic word has nothing to do with the meaning claimed.
Profound Moral: It is probably unwise to get a tattoo written in a language you do not know, or with which your tattoo artist is unfamiliar.
I've heard it said that people used to get tattoos to stand out; now they get them to fit in. I don't know why folks are concerned with either. In any case, there is a booming market for tattoo removal, and some can't be removed; it will be interesting to see what becomes of the "cracker" guy. :)