Which textual message would you have tattooed on your body?
July 24, 2005 3:59 PM   Subscribe

If you would have to choose a quote, verse, lyric, poem or other textual message to have tattooed on your body, what would it be? In what way is that text significant to you? Which body part would you put it on? Which representation system would you use?
posted by koenie to Writing & Language (55 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
across the shoulder blades:

for the people, by the people
posted by stevejensen at 4:17 PM on July 24, 2005

Do you plan on going to meet-ups? How about "Metafilter" in big, gothic letters across your chest?
posted by Rothko at 4:24 PM on July 24, 2005

Possibly the same lines I've used as a signature for a long time -
We are nought but wolves at heart
And no science and no art
Will ever overcome our underlying
Predatory part. I would use the standard English alphabet.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:31 PM on July 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

One letter on each knuckle of my right hand: F=MA
posted by Hildago at 4:33 PM on July 24, 2005

Talking Heads lyric:
Damn that television
what a bad picture.
posted by ackptui at 4:34 PM on July 24, 2005

I have "Don't give up" tattooed, in binary, on my arm. I hope to some day have "FUCK LIFE" tattooed on my knuckles.
posted by cmonkey at 4:36 PM on July 24, 2005

I would like to get something by Voltaire tattooed, but I'm not sure I have the balls to get something so political as
God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.
It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.
placed permanently on my body.
posted by cyphill at 4:43 PM on July 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

Welcome to Jamaica, have a nice day.

/couldn't resist.
posted by Tuwa at 4:47 PM on July 24, 2005

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from the dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

(The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
by Randall Jarrell)

I just think it's cool but I'd never get a tattoo.
posted by Doohickie at 4:50 PM on July 24, 2005

cmonkey writes "I have 'Don't give up' tattooed, in binary, on my arm."

What encoding?
posted by ChrisR at 4:53 PM on July 24, 2005

I'm not at all religious, but this has always resonated with me:
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17

posted by boo_radley at 5:01 PM on July 24, 2005

Interesting question. I'm about to have a line from Prufrock tattooed on my arm, to wit: I have heard the mermaids singing...

Why? Even though it's the fave poem of many ppl, i like the cynicism and wistfullness of it.
posted by gaspode at 7:03 PM on July 24, 2005

Weird, gaspode. I had never before thought of tattooing words on my body, but "Dare I eat a peach" was the first line that sprung to mind.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:12 PM on July 24, 2005

Around my left wrist: If I cannot bring you comfort...

Around my right wrist: ...then at least I bring you hope

Somewhere I can see it (likely inner arm, very small): Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:13 PM on July 24, 2005 [2 favorites]

I saw someone with "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law". I thought that was pretty keen.
posted by electroboy at 7:15 PM on July 24, 2005

Of course, I mangle the quote, which should be "Do I dare to eat a peach?"
posted by Kwantsar at 7:17 PM on July 24, 2005

I've always thought "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here," would be pretty good on the pubis.
posted by alms at 7:31 PM on July 24, 2005

I shocked myself by realizing how much I'd like to have this line (in a different design, definitely) on my body. Reads, "What is a life without the heart at risk?"
posted by gleuschk at 7:32 PM on July 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

Funny you should ask this, as I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I decided recently that my next tattoo will be some sort of quote, but I haven't decided what. More than likely, it will be either an exerpt from a Ray Bradbury story or a song lyric from Ben Folds. I'll know the right quote when the time comes to get the tattoo, which won't be for a few more years. Why those choices? I've been fans of both for years, and their words resonate with me no matter my age or life situation. It would go on my lower back, below one of my other tattoos, I think. And it would most likely be in English, but I will spend days or weeks agonizing over the typeface.
posted by geeky at 7:35 PM on July 24, 2005

It'd be a single word in a bold sans-serif type. Possibilities:
  • nothing
  • and
  • yet
  • maybe
Other than stuff like that, I hate word tattoos. Especially song lyrics, blackletter, and kanji.

Worse are the morons with 'binary' tattooed on them. Idiot.

Even worse are the idiots with standard-issue barcode tattoos.
posted by blasdelf at 7:35 PM on July 24, 2005

I like the idea of the Prufrock tattoo- however, I would have a hard time deciding which line!

As it happens, I actually have a poem tattooed on me: "l(a" by e.e. cummings:





It's on my spine. In the same font as it is in the original book, but enlarged.

I love the poem, I love literature and poetry, and I got it on my spine not only because it looks cool, but because books have spines too.
posted by elisabeth r at 7:36 PM on July 24, 2005 [3 favorites]

Work as if you were in the early days of a better nation.
posted by jessamyn at 7:41 PM on July 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't ever get a tattoo, but if I was to, I'd probably get my Chinese surname done in ancient script on the back of my neck pr between my shoulder-blades. I'm the oldest-son of the oldest-son from some 8th prince of some emperor from ~400 CE and I'm also pretty much the last male of the line left who has the proclivity/ability to procreate.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 7:48 PM on July 24, 2005

I am not sure that anyone has said anything either profound enough, or cool enough, that I would want to have it permanently inscribed upon my body. One's view of such things tends to change over a lifetime.
posted by caddis at 7:54 PM on July 24, 2005

"This too shall pass," no idea where I'd get it. Maybe a shoulderblade or something.
posted by stoneegg21 at 8:03 PM on July 24, 2005

I put this Sartre quote on my iPod: "l'homme n'est rien d'autre que se qu'il se fait." My poor literal translation: "Man is nothing other than what he makes of himself." Politically neutral but pretty motivating.
posted by themadjuggler at 8:11 PM on July 24, 2005

elisabeth r, that's amazing. I might steal that idea if I ever get a tattoo.

Also, I always liked this quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: "A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral." Too long for a tattoo, though, I think, but there's just something about it that resonates in me.

Or, maybe, Camus' "You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life."
posted by strikhedonia at 8:18 PM on July 24, 2005

"I'd rather have a frontal lobotomy than a poodle in front of me." on my forehead, in mirror writing, 'cause that's just the way I feel about those varmints. That means you, Precious!
posted by GoatCactus at 8:18 PM on July 24, 2005

"What can change the nature of a man?"

"And so it begins."

Or I could just cut to the chase: "GEEK", probably in the cliche'd Gothic font.

GoatCactus, isn't it "I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy"?
posted by cyrusdogstar at 8:27 PM on July 24, 2005

I'd like to tattoo WOOF across the front fingers of my left fist, and MEOW across the front fingers of my right first. Then I could tell the story of dog versus cat a la Night of the Hunter, ("But look out, old dog, he's a-comin' back! 'Woof! Woof!' 'MEOW!'" I bet that would get me mad play.
posted by squirrel at 8:36 PM on July 24, 2005

GoatCactus, I've always entertained the idea of this forehead tattoo: POOR IMPULSE CONTROL.
posted by squirrel at 8:38 PM on July 24, 2005

Let Darwin Do His Work
posted by Ryvar at 8:45 PM on July 24, 2005

I'm totally getting this done somewhere on my body.
posted by Mach5 at 9:08 PM on July 24, 2005

Whoops, heres a better representation
posted by Mach5 at 9:09 PM on July 24, 2005

In whichever typeface was used in the first ed. of Ulysses:

yes i said yes i will Yes

...possibly over my heart.
posted by scody at 9:17 PM on July 24, 2005 [2 favorites]

I was going to get the Constitution tattooed on the head of my cock, but the artist demanded more money to include the Bill of Rights. I settled for "HELL NO, FUCK YOU" on my right forearm.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:24 PM on July 24, 2005

Yes cyrusdogstar, it was "I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy", but it morphed after I spent way too much time with Precious the poodle last year. She eventually found a new home, and just in time, too. I had taken to driving around Red Deer, Alberta in Nancy the Talking Car singing a morphed version of a Talking Heads tune:
Psycho killer poodle, qu'est ce que c'est!
Fu! fu! fu! fu! fu!
Fu! fu! fu! fu! fu!
posted by GoatCactus at 9:38 PM on July 24, 2005

"Iym from somver els" on the right bicep
posted by Meatbomb at 9:47 PM on July 24, 2005


To me, this is the ultimate truth.

Inner left wrist.
posted by intoxicate at 11:06 PM on July 24, 2005

posted by inksyndicate at 11:07 PM on July 24, 2005

posted by blasdelf at 11:08 PM on July 24, 2005

A friend of mine got a Gorey quote, in his script, tattooed on her wrist:
I thought it was going to be different;
It turned out to be(,) just the same.

I would (and will, sooner or later) go for a mantra of some sort, on my right forearm. Something cryptic and maybe even innocuous--I totally don't understand the "I'd like a giant orange fish! On my foot!" stuff I see a lot, but then I've seen some mind-blowing tattoos, too...
posted by hototogisu at 11:40 PM on July 24, 2005

posted by growabrain at 11:50 PM on July 24, 2005

Golden Palace.com! Oh wait.

Failing that, how about Ceci n'est pas une tatouage?
posted by fandango_matt at 12:13 AM on July 25, 2005

If you must go the dermal graffiti route, two pieces of advice:
1) get a design or saying that will allow shrinkage/shriveling, 'cause that's sure to happen eventually; and
2) whatever you get, have it proofread (this also applies to non-English characters)
posted by rob511 at 1:26 AM on July 25, 2005

1) get a design or saying that will allow shrinkage/shriveling, 'cause that's sure to happen eventually

Which is why my next tattoo will be sic transit gloria mundi.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 4:39 AM on July 25, 2005

I'm with blasdelf. Well, except that I'm often tempted to get 'impermanance' arcing across my belly.
posted by box at 5:57 AM on July 25, 2005

I'm not the tattooing kind, but if I end up with a gravestone, I hope it reads (XTC lyric): "You've learnt no lessons / All that time so cheaply spent."
posted by kimota at 6:09 AM on July 25, 2005

I was thinking I'd get "Stupid white guy" or "cliche" written in Japanese or Chinese characters.


And Probably just on the shoulder or something.
posted by ODiV at 6:15 AM on July 25, 2005

jessamyn - googling says that's alasdair gray. is that the same gray who wrote lanark? do you know where it's from?

my favourite quotes are perhaps too long to be tattooed, but just in case...

from joseph raz in one of his books:

it may be thought surprising that one should have a right to do that which one ought not.is it not better to confine rights to that which it is right or at least permissible to do?but to say this is to misunderstand the nature of rights. one needs no right to be entitled to do the right thing. that it is right gives one all the title one needs. but one needs a right to be entitled to do that which one should not. it is an essential element of rights to action that they entitle one to do that which one should not. to say this is not, of course, to say that the purpose of rights of action is to increase wrong-doing. their purpose is to develop and protect the autonomy of the agent. they entitle him to choose for himself rightly or wrongly.but they cannot do that unless they entitle him to choose wrongly.
and from david canadine, quoted by paxman:

For any society, in any age, the study of politics ultimately comes down to one elemental question: how are people persuaded to acquiesce in a polity where the distribution of power is manifestly unequal and unjust, as it invariably is?
posted by andrew cooke at 6:31 AM on July 25, 2005

My tattoo is an image. I couldn't imagine having words on my body. It just feels... wrong. (I'm a writer by hobby and trade.) I'd never commit to one phrase, word or identifier.

How about on the palm of my hand in a script that looked like ballpoint: "Memo to myself. Do the dumb things I have to do. Touch the puppethead."?
posted by Gucky at 10:28 AM on July 25, 2005

barn's burned down
now I can see the moon

of your existence?
There is nothing but

Or something like that - I have quotes stuck up all over my fridge & bathroom (these are two random picks) so it would be hard to decide. My tattoos are all art that really resonates for me; I think I can live longer with pictures than words. So maybe:
verba brevis
ars longa

Oh & I highly recommend the inside of the ankle as a place for a tattoo. Doesn't hurt that much and looks good, doesn't tan much, so won't fade.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:38 AM on July 25, 2005

Dylan Thomas:

"Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea."

I would never get a tattoo, but this is one quote that has always stayed with me and theoretically, I could see if across my shoulderblades or something.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 11:38 AM on July 25, 2005

it is this deep blankness is the real thing strange

things fall apart, the centre cannot hold

not with a bang, but a whimper
posted by andrew cooke at 12:48 PM on July 25, 2005

This is rather late but, I hate when people completely cover their bodies with one design (usually theese incoporate skulls and flames and dragons and shit). If you get a tattoo it should work with your body.
posted by Suparnova at 9:59 AM on February 2, 2006

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