German and Italian translation for matching tattoos!
July 21, 2010 9:19 AM   Subscribe

[Translation Filter] A friend needs a few simple German and Italian translations for a tattoo. But I don't speak German or Italian!

Hey gang – a friend of mine is looking to get matching tattoos with her boyfriend. She is looking for a few translations. If someone would be so kind, I would appreciate it! (I don’t want to trust my googling if it’s going to be on their bodies forever...)

I need:

My Forever, in both Italian and German


My Always, in both Italian and German

Thanks in advance.
posted by firei to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My Italian is pretty poor, but based on what I remember from Italian class years ago I would say:

My Always = Il Mio Sempre (masculine) or La Mia Sempre (feminine)

For instance, if they want their tattoos to refer to each other, then presumably your friend would want the masculine form and her boyfriend would want the feminine form.

I had to do a Google search for "forever," and it seems to be "per sempre" (literally, "for always"). So I suppose you could say "Il Mio Per Sempre" or "La Mia Per Sempre." Since "per sempre" is so close to "sempre," I wonder if Italians would read "Il Mio Sempre" ("La Mia Sempre") as suggesting both "always" and "forever."

To be clear, I'd defer to any other commenters who can refine this, perche il mio italiano e horribile.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:41 AM on July 21, 2010

I am sorry to tell you, but the tattoos will not match. Both German and Italian have genders for their nouns and the adjective's genders must agree with the nouns. If the boyfriend's refers to a girl, in Italian (for example) his will read "la mia ___", whereas the girl's will read, "il mio ___"

As well, languages do not all work the same way. English is flexible in using adjectives as nouns, but other languages less so. Even so, as best I recall, Italian uses sempre for "always" and per sempre for "forever." German uses immer for "always" but the only word that comes to mind for "forever" is ewig, which really more commonly means "eternal," which is not exactly the same thing.

No matter how you slice it, I think your friend is looking to wind up with an ungrammatical phrase indelibly inked on her skin, which will make onlookers who understand the languages in question baffled and amused: the equivalent of Engrish.

Note: I am not a native speaker of either language, nor am I perfectly fluent in them, so there might be a solution, but I am not seeing one.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:52 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Of course, ricochet biscuit is right that this will be technically ungrammatical. I assume this isn't a problem since "my always" and "my forever" are ungrammatical English to begin with. (I don't really get ricochet biscuit's point that "English is flexible in using adjectives as nouns," aside from the fact that "always" and "forever" aren't adjectives.) Presumably your friends realize that the phrases they're interested in aren't proper English let alone proper Italian or German, but they like the poetic effect. I'm totally unqualified to say how well the poetic effect translates to Italian (or German).
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:59 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am not a native German speaker. I absolutely defer to any native German speakers.

There's a somewhat famous love letter written by Beethoven (to his 'Immortal Beloved') that ends with "Ewig dein, ewig mein, ewig uns" ("Forever yours, forever mine, forever ours"). So I'm going to go with "ewig mein" for "my forever," so as to invoke the letter

For "my always" I'd say "immer mein." Technically it'd be more correct to put the possessive first (e.g., "mein ewig"), but I like the idea of invoking the letter with the first phrase and keeping the second phrase consistent with the first.

(The letter in English and the original)
posted by jedicus at 10:00 AM on July 21, 2010

It is alright if they don't match due to grammar - she'd much prefer something correct to something identical! Thanks for the help so far...

Anyone else have any ideas/suggestions?
posted by firei at 10:00 AM on July 21, 2010

aside from the fact that "always" and "forever" aren't adjectives.

argh adverbs where is coffee dammit
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:20 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not a native German speaker, but one phrase that might work is "für immer und ewig": roughly, "forever and always". It has a lovely sound to it.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:43 AM on July 21, 2010


Meine Zukunft = My Future
Meine Ewigkeit = My Eternity
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:46 AM on July 21, 2010

As someone who has one tattoo and is looking to get more, I would strongly caution your friend in getting a tattoo, and especially two, in languages she herself doesn't speak.

See, for example, all the tattoos native English speaking Americans who do not speak any Asian languages have and do not realize what their tattoos really say.

If she and her guy are going to go through with getting these tattoos, then they absolutely should speak in person and not over the interwebs to several native Italian and German speakers, have each write out clearly the words to be used, and then seek out an Italian speaking and German speaking tattoo artist to do the one in the respective language.

I studied Russian for close to 15 years. Despite not really using it for awhile, I can still get by after a few minutes of listening. But no way would I ever get something inked on me in Russian without running to several native speakers first, and even then, I probably wouldn't be able to bring myself to do it for fear that it would come out saying something I had not intended.
posted by zizzle at 11:07 AM on July 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

Not a native German speaker, but have studied for nearly a decade, and have a German studies minor.

"Das Ewige" means "the forever" or "the eternity," while "ewig" means, as an adverb, "forever" or "eternal."

So you might be looking for "Mein Ewige." Of course, if you wanted to imply an "eternal" male or female subject, you would say "Mein Ewiger" or "Meine Ewige," respectively. (As in, 'Mein Ewiger Mann' or 'Meine ewige Frau', which evokes to me nothing more strongly than the TV series Highlander)

"Immer" has no nominal form I'm aware of, but like others, I'd defer to a native speaker about that. My intuition is that "Mein Immer" has the same meaning as "My Always."

Also, listen to zizzle. I'm posting in case you don't. :)
posted by edguardo at 11:49 AM on July 21, 2010

While "My Forever" and "My Always" might be ungrammatical in English, they're not so ungrammatical that they become meaningless. That might not be the case in other languages. I don't speak either Italian or German, but the difficulty the people in this thread are having getting you what you want suggests that your friend is on shaky ground here. She should at least take zizzle's advice to hold off until they can both talk to a trustworthy person who speaks the languages they want.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:06 PM on July 21, 2010

We translators have a saying that there are three things that everyone thinks that they do well - translation, sex and driving - and the overwhelming majority of people do none of them well. Sadly, this thread proves the point about the first, at least. The majority of suggestions, for both languages, are nonsensical. I do, however, like Jedicus' ewig dein, which would be ewig deine, if said by a woman. The best bet in Italian would be per sempre tuo, per sempre tua if said by a woman. Idioms generally do not translate well, particularly, as some posters have pointed out, when the idiom is grammatically incorrect in the original. What is wrong with mine (or yours) forever in English?
posted by TheRaven at 12:28 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

Or, to complement TheRaven's advice, why not find a saying you know carries the right idiomatic meaning in German and/or Italian? Just because something is meaningful in one language doesn't mean that the exact translation will be equally meaningful in another language.

Remember all those lame middle school attempts to say "give good head" in Spanish (last time I checked, it is not "dar cabeza buena")?

Question hijack: I'm thinking about getting an excerpt from the Upanishads as a tattoo. I know how to say the relevant passage in Sanskrit, and I know what it means. I do not, however, read or write Sanskrit. How can I do this in an intelligent manner? I've seen enough Sanskrit ink to surmise that there must be artists out there that specialize in this sort of thing.
posted by Sara C. at 12:47 PM on July 21, 2010

It truly sounds awful in German, OP. Like something run through google translator. I'm a native speaker.

Better, as some have suggested, pick some version of "yours forever" and "yours always".

Für immer Dein works for both genders. Feminine version would be "für immer die Deine", masculine "für immer der Deine"
If you want more of an oldfashioned Goethe vibe, "ewiglich Dein" or "Dein für immerdar" are nice.

If you insist on a literal approach try "für immer Du" or "Du in alle Ewigkeit". (forever you)

There is also "Meine Unendlichkeit" (my eternity).

Do NOT confuse with "immer Du!" - it means something like "you again, dammit!"
posted by Omnomnom at 1:01 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

A good place to ask this would be the Word Reference forums, in fact, there may well be a thread about these phrases already.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:54 PM on July 21, 2010

"you again, dammit!" might be the best choice in the longterm! It kind of appeals to me, but i'm british...
posted by maiamaia at 3:31 PM on July 21, 2010

"My always" and "my ever ' are pretty awkward in English, would "my destiny" work better?
posted by path at 4:34 PM on July 21, 2010

Thanks so much for your input, everyone! I'm not marking bests because I don't know what she'll choose to do - I did point her in the direction of this thread. I'll keep you posted on what she decides to do, and if anyone else has more ideas, feel free to keep sharing!
posted by firei at 5:37 PM on July 21, 2010

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