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What Your Cliché Tattoo Says About You

Some years ago we ventured to tell you what your tattoo said about you, but times have changed and so have tattoos.  Miami Ink, LA Ink, Ink Masters, Tattoo Nightmares and a solid 100 other shows about tattoos have permeated the airwaves.  Everyone and their taint bleacher has a tattoo now.  Times and perceptions have changed and cliché tattoos are waaaaaay more cliché now.  It’s time to take another look at some ink and see what we can see.


According to US census info, there are about 5.2 million Native Americans out there.  There are also about 180 Central and South American tribes.  None of those people have ever gone to a tattoo shop to ask for a tribal tattoo.  Curiously, none of the tattoos they do have look tribal in any way.  No one knows where tribal tattoos came from but we can all be sure they don’t actually represent anything tribal.

If you have a tribal tattoo there’s a high chance that the closest you have been to a tribe is taking part in a team building exercise at work.  You’re letting everyone know that you saw all your friends with tattoos and wanted one of your own but you literally couldn’t think of anything to get so you opted for a furious blarp of black swirly shit in the hopes you’d look cool.  You made the wrong choice.

Tramp Stamp

“Oh my God, tattoos are fun!  I want a tattoo but I don’t want it to be out where my mom and dad can see it, but when I’m wearing a cute top at the club I want to be able to show it off, or at the beach so everyone can know how fun I am!  Oh my God, it’s not a tramp stamp, stop saying that, I’m not a tramp!  Yes you can do me from behind!” – what everyone hears no matter what you’re saying once you have a tramp stamp.

Olde English

I think anything that looks hard to read is intelligent.  It was either this or my doctor’s cursive.


The scorpion has long been a symbol of danger and mystery.  Like all arachnids it has an otherworldly quality to it, its features are alien and invoke fear, its claws and tail cause a primal reaction in humans and indeed many other animals.  It was cool up until about 1965 when a German band chose it as a name and proceeded to wait 19 years to release the only song you’ve ever heard by them “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”

If you have a scorpion tattoo you’re basically saying “Here I am, rock you like a guy who can’t do math in his head!”

Barbed wire

Of all the arm band tattoos, of which there are many, this is the most played out because it was played out the moment someone first got it.  Because the first person anyone remembers getting it was Pam Anderson who got it to commemorate her role in a movie literally no one saw or cared about.  Oh, a plotless film in which Pam Anderson is naked?  But not that porn she made with Tommy Lee?  Then I fail to see why I care.  It’d be like if that Showgirls chick got a stripper pole tattoo to celebrate being in that movie and then you got one, too and everyone just assumed that you lost a bet or something.

If you have a barbed wire tattoo you’re trying to tell people you’re tough, but mostly you’re saying you panicked at the tattoo place and couldn’t think of anything else besides strips of bacon that could wrap around your arm.


The mysterious East is not really mysterious any more but there’s some kind of culturual subconscious thing that makes non Asian people think there’s still a lot of mystery in Asia.  And sure, the scenery in places like China and Thailand seems beautiful, and there’s something to be said for that Japanese sailor outfit thing, but how does any of that work in terms of body modification?  Turns out it’s all calligraphy.  Who saw that coming?

Kanji is appealing because it’s like a special secret between you and a massive population of people who live on the other side of the world despite representing a fairly large percentage of immigrants at home.  You get something meaningful, as meaningful as a single word can be, tattooed on you and it’s like your power word.  It’s you in a nutshell.  Strength.  Honor.  Tits.  Whatever.  And if anyone wants to know what it is they have to ask you because us round eyes is clueless.

Of course nearly all tattoo artists follow templates they paid for that show the calligraphy and it turns out a lot of them were done improperly so that the lettering you end up with is gibberish if you’re lucky or a totally different word if you’re not.  Best to get an actual, trustworthy Asian person to write down what you want ahead of time if you really want to do this.  But mostly what you’re telling the world is that you like having a tiny bit of arbitrary power of them by having this thing that only you know the meaning of and if anyone else wants in on the secret they have to ask.  It’s like walking around smugly holding  a box with a big ? on it until someone asks what’s inside.  Only in this case what’s inside might be the word ‘douchecopter” or some such.

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