In the ongoing discussion about cultural appropriation, perhaps the most ubiquitous (and therefore, somehow generally acceptable) is the Kanji tattoo. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s one of the countless Japanese language tattoos long sported by people of other cultures, often to indicate some sort of Eastern-inspired spiritual depth. (Or because people just think it looks cool; after all, Japanese characters are beautiful.)
But as has been proven by far too many cautionary tales, getting a tattoo in a foreign language requires due diligence. In other words, it’s important to understand not only the characters, but the context of the language you’re using. Otherwise, you’re liable to end up with something inaccurate—or worse, utterly ridiculous—permanently etched into your skin.
Entertainer (and multiply-accused appropriator) Ariana Grande recently found this out the hard way when she attempted to commemorate the success of her latest single, “7 Rings,” with a Kanji palm tattoo of the song’s title, using what we’re sure she believed was a direct translation.
As it turns out, it wasn’t the translation she’d hoped. As our sister site Kotaku’s Asian satellite Kotaku East reports:
The kanji character 七 means “seven,” while 輪 means “hoop,” “circle,” “ring,” or “wheel.” However, when you put them together, the meaning is different! 七輪 (shichirin) is a “small charcoal grill” and not “seven rings,” which is written differently in Japanese.
That’s right, y’all. Your girl Grande basically got “hibachi” tattooed on her hand. And yes, we laughed. Heartily.
Japanese speakers on social media were quick to point out Grande’s mistake, not only posting pics of exactly what her Kanji really means, but noting that her ignorance had basically rendered her a cliché. Not her “Best Mistake,” as it turns out.
As for us, we’ve got nothing—except the satisfaction that the punishment fits the appropriative crime—or crimes, in Grande’s case. Now, she has a permanent reminder of just how wrong it can go, and will hopefully pause before she proceeds in the future. Then again, they say big grills don’t cry. (We couldn’t help ourselves.)
But whew, was this good for a midweek chuckle. Ariana, thank you. Next.
Updated: Jan. 31, 2019, 9:40 a.m., ET: According to Cosmopolitan, Grande finally had the genius idea to consult with her Japanese tutor, simply known as “Ayumi,” who helped her find an amendment to her incorrect ink.
Grande unveiled her “slightly better” new additions later in the evening, jokingly adding the caption, “RIP tiny charcoal grill. Miss you man. I actually really liked you.” Frankly, we think she should’ve taken the L and kept it.
Updated: Jan. 31, 2019, 12:24 p.m., ET: But wait. Hilariously, there’s more. According to Page Six, Grande’s revised tattoo is still incorrect. In fact, it may be even more so, as pointed out by several people on social media.
Japan-based Buzzfeed reporter Eimi Yamamitsu tweeted, “Why… how… now Ariana’s tattoo reads ‘Japanese BBQ finger.’”
Another writer, Jen Frederick, outlined exactly where Grande’s attempt to correct her ill-advised ink went wrong, tweeting, “If she’s learning Japanese, she should fire her tutor.”
See? Ariana should’ve just sat there and eaten her BBQ.