The significance of barbed wire tattoos

I haven’t really payed much attention to these before… Once in awhile I see a fellow walking around with a tattoo of a strand of barbed wire around his biceps.

Then, the other day I saw two guys chatting at the gym and they both were sporting barbed-wire tattoos on the upper arm.

Is there some hidden meaning to this? A secret society?

It means, “I’m a badass.”

As far as I know, it just looks cool.

Or so we are asked to believe.

I think it became a lot more popular after the release of the film Barb Wire.

Isn’t it a very handy way to cover up any “name” or other embarrassing tattoos if you can’t afford the removal costs?


Too thin.

My company commander in boot camp (18 years ago :eek: ) proudly displayed some real beauties he wore on his back and chest. A huge panther, an eagle, some other creatures. He explained how each one covered a different girl’s name.

On the subject of Tattoo animals… well, I got a tattoo of two pigs “Makin’ Bacon” on my arm. Not exactly fierce or tough guy-ish, but makes me laugh every time I see it.

Among some groups, a barbed wire tattoo means you’ve been in prison.

It’s a hard time to try decoding tattoos. What may have had a subcultural meaning at one time is about three weeks tops away from becoming just another cool image.

I always enjoy asking people with Asian symbols inked on them why they have “Dumbass Whiteboy” tattooed on their arm in Korean. Sometimes they look startled, and look down. This means two things: I am a jerk, and they’re not sure they’ve done their research correctly, but they have the tattoo anyway.

Or “My wiener is really small, so I must overcompensate.” :stuck_out_tongue:

The first thing I think when I see one is “Man, what a poser.”

I think it’s

“My wiener is really small, so I must overcompensate, and a tattoo is cheaper than a sports car.”

The last time I walked into a North-American tattoo parlour, they had a wall of Chinese characters people could choose from. Several of the translations were wrong. And anyway, why would you want to have something on your body written in a language you can’t read?

David Beckham (English footballer, yes we know America has never heard of him, and rarely accused of being the sharpest tool in the box) has a cool tattoo of his wife’s name (Victoria, aka “Posh Spice”) on his arm in Hindi script. Apparently he felt that would be classier than plain old English.

You won’t be surprised to hear that David doesn’t read Hindi, so how was he to know that it was spelt wrong? It says ‘Vihctoria’. :smiley:

So that doesn’t make him look like an idiot at all.

I think barbed wire is also relatively cheap as far as armbands are concerned. With a more complicated pattern, it takes a lot of work and skill for the tattoo artist to match up the pattern on the inside of the arm, so if you want a continuous Celtic knot or Greek key pattern, it’s going to cost a lot more money than a strand of barbed wire.

Of course, a lot of tattoo artists will either not try to match the pattern where the band joins or put in some other design to break the pattern and make it easy to connect, but from a practical standpoint, barbed wire is one of the cheapest and easiest armband designs.

[slight threadjack]
I’m still mystified by English speakers’ belief that their names exist in all other languages andin their writing systems. Yeah, sure, there are synonymous names within the Romance languages, but, why, oh why, do Bob and Ted and Mary and Alice think that there’s a Chinese or Hindu or Japanese or Navajo or Inca equivalent for their names? Why?

Oh, yeah, just in case… a spiderweb tattoo over the elbow is supposed to mean you’ve killed someone.
[/slight threadjack]

Well, in some of those languages, a Western name will be adapted to fit their language. For example, my own name, Rik Osborne, becomes Rikku Ozubo-n in Japanese, and is written with the appropriate characters for that pronunciation.

Let’s see… the characters probably won’t work here, but I’ll try it:


What makes David’s ‘Vihctoria’ even more ridiculous is that Victoria is a well known name in Hindi (it being the name of the Queen, Empress of India) and the translation is available and not difficult to obtain.

Exactly my point, Rick.

No, your characters didn’t post here, but, since you’ve chosen Japanese, there are three ways for you to “render” your name…

four ways to “render” your name with Japanese…

… five, five ways to try to have your name “expressed” in Japanese:

  1. You could translate the meaning of your name… generally, “Richard” is said to be of Germanic origin, and to mean “hard” or “rule”… in which case, you could choose the Japanese Chinese characters that approximately translate into “hard” or “rule”.

  2. You could use Japanese katakana syllables that approximately match your name, which it seems you have done, thus resulting in “rikku”… but it has no meaning at all in Japanese. If you want to switch to “riiku”, you can have your name rhyme with the Japanese-English equivalent of “leak”.

  3. You could use Japanese hiragana syllables that approximately match your name, but again, they would have no meaning in Japanese.

  4. You could try to match the pronunciation of your name to some Japanese word, and then use the hiragana letters that spell that Japanese word. The only thing that comes close is riku, which means “land”.

  5. You could match the pronunciation of your name to some Japanese word, and then use the Japanese Chinese character for that word. Again, in the case of “Rick”, the choice is limited to riku, which means “land” (the noun, not the verb).

I don’t have time to go into your surname… where is your tattoo?

Teardrop tattoos at the corner of the eye mean the same thing.

But the real reason for tattooing a barbed wire around your arm is practical. It keeps cows out of your armpit.