"Eat a bag of dicks" on my principal's back? Please?
April 3, 2011 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Do you know Japanese? Do you not know Japanese? What does my shirt say? (p.s. It's likely not Japanese.)

Many years ago, when I was in first or second grade, one of the upper grades in my (PK-12) school put on fundraiser. One of the boys in the class (I'm guessing he was a junior, since they do the most fundraisers for prom, not that it really matters) drew up a neat little design, and they sold t-shirts to the rest of the school.

Since one of the "big kids" had made them, they were the coolest things ever, so everyone in my class got one. I got one. Pretty much everyone in the entire school got one. Even the admins.

I have long hoped (pretty much from the day I got it) that the shirt secretly says something obscene, and that this kid got a kick out of seeing everyone at this conservative little private school walking around with something horribly offensive plastered on their back. I really hope that's true.

Unfortunately, it's probably just gibberish.

So...any ideas?
posted by phunniemee to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
On the upper left, it's badly drawn, but it says fire. The rest of them are kanji-esque, but don't appear to say anything.
posted by headspace at 12:36 PM on April 3, 2011

I'm pretty sure it isn't Japanese. I'm guessing whoever made it maybe looked at some Hiragana and drew a loose rendition of them. I don't know much Japanese either, mind you, but I did learn how to read Hiragana and Katakana a while ago and I know what those look like.

(Or it could be kanji, which I don't know much of at all. You'd need someone with more knowledge to say for sure!)
posted by anaximander at 12:37 PM on April 3, 2011

Top left character is probably "Fire," top right is probably "Down." I don't recognize bottom left, and bottom right might be "strength" or "sword." All together? I dunno.
posted by spacewrench at 12:37 PM on April 3, 2011

Bottom left looks like it could be the kanji for "small," but missing a stroke.
posted by miratime at 12:44 PM on April 3, 2011

They're probably garbled versions of the characters 火 (fire), 下 (down), 小 (small), and 丸 (round). They look very much like the stereotypical "fake kanji" font that's used in a lot of bad tattoos, and which the Hanzi Smatter blogger likes to make fun of so much.
posted by Nomyte at 12:53 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

these characters look more chinese to me than japanese.
posted by violetk at 1:42 PM on April 3, 2011

My Japanese wife said (pointing at the characters) "Fire ... Under ... Small ... Strength", then "It doesn't make any sense at all".
posted by Grangousier at 1:50 PM on April 3, 2011

Response by poster: Hmm, now I'm really perplexed. I expected it to either say something specific or absolutely nothing. Never would have guessed it was just a couple random words. Strange...
posted by phunniemee at 1:58 PM on April 3, 2011

"strength under fire"? That's meaningful. The "small" character could be a mistake.
posted by stuart_s at 2:08 PM on April 3, 2011

Best answer: Track him down on Facebook and ask him! Does your school have a Facebook page and/or website? Then come tell us what he said.
posted by rtha at 2:20 PM on April 3, 2011

Response by poster: Track him down on Facebook and ask him!

Fantastic idea!

However, I'm only kind of maybe sure who it was...I seem to remember the guy coming up and announcing they were for sale during assembly. I found the possible suspect on facebook (the school's facebook page is kind of spotty, but we have a couple of school friends in common) and sent him a message. If it wasn't him, maybe he knows who it was.

And now we wait.
posted by phunniemee at 2:42 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

The design of your t-shirt pointed to Japanese mon. But I don't know if your design has any specific meaning.

Another interpretation of the bottom two characters is that it means 小刀( Shōtō "small sword"), which could be either wakizashi or kodachi. So your t-shirt could mean "wakizashi underneath the fire." Of course, at this point it's all speculation. Hope you will get your answer soon.
posted by Carius at 6:49 PM on April 3, 2011

I don't know Japanese, but I know Chinese. (And for those who don't know, Japanese kanji are the same as Chinese characters.) The top two are definitely 火 (fire) and 下 (down/under). Put together as "火下", at least with Chinese grammar, "under the fire" or "under fire" would be a good literal translation. As for the two on bottom, they are at least erroneous if not fictitious. The one on the left looks like 小 (small) but is missing the dot on the left. The one on the right looks like 力 (strength) but has an extra sort of a dot. In contrast to some previous commenters, I don't think it looks much like 丸 (small ball) or 刀 (knife) -- or at least, 力 is closer. So probably those are approximations of characters the artist saw somewhere and didn't copy completely faithfully. But I would agree with the guess that he might have been going for some kind of "strength under fire" type of meaning. (Or maybe he was just copying a few simple characters [imperfectly] without much regard for what they mean, just because they were relatively simple to draw.)
posted by jef at 5:25 AM on April 4, 2011

I think it's just gibberish. Many Japanese clothing stores sell shirts with English words that don't mean anything. I think this is the same thing in reverse.
posted by Tin Man at 10:57 AM on April 4, 2011

And for those who don't know, Japanese kanji are the same as Chinese characters.

actually, japanese kanji contains chinese characters but there are also characters that are uniquely japanese.
posted by violetk at 1:23 AM on April 5, 2011

Response by poster: I got a response from t-shirt guy:

I am soo excited that you have this t-shirt. I absolutely designed it! It was a tribute to my dad, who passed away recently. You wouldn't be interested in selling it to me? Over the years I have lost mine and have not seen or heard of any of my friends still having it. I am having trouble remembering you since you were younger but I hope that you are doing well. Tell me what you think, that would be awesome. I would frame it.

I don't even care what it says any more. I'm just gonna send him my shirt.
posted by phunniemee at 7:19 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, wow! It's great that you heard back from him...but come on! Ask him? For us, your hive mind?
posted by rtha at 7:32 PM on April 5, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, wow! It's great that you heard back from him...but come on! Ask him? For us, your hive mind?

Yeah, I asked again. In between the sorry-your-dad-died and what's-your-address. We'll see.
posted by phunniemee at 7:42 PM on April 5, 2011

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