Is It Okay To Judge People About Their Misspelled Tattoos?


Earlier, Ashley reported on Hayden Panettiere‘s misspelled tattoo. The phrase, “Vivere senza rimpianti” in Italian which means “Live without regrets” in English, is tattooed on Panettiere’s ribcage as, “Vivere senza rimipianti.” She jokes about it and says that she must now literally live with regrets, as she has a phrase in another language that she did not spell correctly permanently on her body. This brought up a question in my head: is it okay to judge others on their erroneous, misspelled tattoos?

First of all, it peeves me slightly when people get tattoos in languages that they do not speak and don’t even think to check any of these places first:

  • Google
  • A native speaker
  • Language to language dictionaries or phrasebooks
  • Educational textbooks
  • Literary works
  • Google Translate
  • F’ing Bing, if that’s your game

In short, it does not take a whole lot of time to proofread a tattoo in another language given the advent of the Internet, particularly when it comes to something that is going to be on your body forever. This isn’t really about aesthetics — If you want to get an evil pink pony banging a personified rainbow dust mop, by all means, go for it! But if you’re like Rihanna, Britney Spears and David Beckham and got misspelled tattoos in foreign languages, I can’t really help but shake my head a bit.

A while back, Panettiere defended her tattoo using the world’s worst excuse, saying she had just “put [her] own spin on it.” Last I checked, you typically don’t “put your own spin on” a language’s grammatical and spelling rules, so I didn’t really understand that explanation. I like her newer explanation, which takes the misstep lightheartedly but still in a straightforward manner, quite a bit more.

Nevertheless, a tattoo is not a blog post, an email or even in a billboard — all of which primarily should consist of proper spelling and grammar, but even so, they’re still not permanent. When you put something permanently on your skin, you should probably give it a Google search or, much better yet, ask a native speaker with solid writing skills prior to getting it done. And if it’s in your native language, you should probably still ask a few people you trust to look it over, particularly if you don’t fancy yourself good with that sort of thing.

While the vast majority of individuals I’ve encountered who fall into this category did not do so intentionally, there are certainly reasons some people misspell tattoos on purpose. But those people typically realize prior to getting it done that viewers will likely not realize that and therefore will simply assume it was done unknowingly. In the same way that people who get facial tattoos or modifications in another very visible area must acknowledge that people will likely judge their decision, those who purposely get tattoos that appear incorrect sort of need to accept that not everybody will “get it.”

In general, having tattoos requires a certain amount of understanding that others will, again, not always “get it.” You don’t need to accept it, per se, but it is definitely there. In an ideal world, none of us would be judged negatively for our tattoos or any other body modifications, but in reality, it’s difficult not to look past certain things. Although I never really find myself saying “ew” about the way other people have chosen to make their bodies look (if I had a nickel for every time I got the “OH GOD, PUT IT AWAY” reaction toward my scarification, I could pay off my loans and get more tattoos), I can’t help having a negative reaction when I realize somebody’s tattoo is grammatically incorrect or spelled wrong. It automatically elicits an internal reaction of, “Well, they obviously didn’t think about this for very long or else they would’ve taken the time to double check. Also, remind me not to visit the tattoo artist who did it.” I’m not saying you need to plan tattoos for ages or anything, but I do think doing a quick Google search as a spellcheck won’t exactly tie you down.

I guess what I’m saying is: no, I do not have any qualms with judging people’s tattoos that are incorrect. Yes, I realize that I don’t have to look at them, but if I happen to see one, I will probably have a non-positive reaction (that I will keep to myself unless it’s addressed). That said, I’m not all that critical of the person him- or herself — of all the faux pas in the world, having a misspelled tattoo is hardly up there as the worst.

Photo: Judy Eddy /

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    • kaimcn

      I have a friend who ended up with “you are beatiful” tattooed on her after three people beside the tattoo artist failed to catch the typo. The ink was free for her but most places I’ve been to tell me that the tattoo-ee is responsible for spelling.

      • Samantha Escobar

        It’s definitely on the responsibility of the one being tattooed to ensure his or her tattoo is spelled correctly (or intentionally incorrect, if that’s the case).

      • kaimcn

        I think it varies from shop to shop. Like I said, my friend’s tattoo was free.

      • Samantha Escobar

        Oh no, I didn’t mean financially, I just meant in general — I think it should be the person who’s being tattooed’s responsibility to check up on their design. But if a tattoo shop decides to comp it, that is always nice!

      • kaimcn

        Oh totally. She’ll have to live with that forever, regardless of the price! And there’s no way she can correct it, it was in a connected script. But she did get a free story!

    • Not-So-Miss Kelli

      I have six script tattoos. All are in English. All contain relatively small, easily spelled words, and all are spelled correctly. However, I can’t tell you how paranoid I got EVERY SINGLE TIME that somehow both my tattoo artist and I would miss some glaring mistake before things got permanent. Sometimes it can just be a matter of having looked at it so many times that the words lose meaning. Get some fresh eyes. Show it to everybody in the entire shop if you have to. You can’t be too careful.

      This isn’t a typo, but I know a guy who has a six-legged spider tattoo. It’s is very obviously a mistake and, the way the legs were drawn on, there’s no easy way to add the missing ones. He tells people he did it on purpose.

      • Samantha Escobar

        I have two tattoos from literary stuff, and I was so so so paranoid, too! It’s understandable, I think…after all, it’ll be there forever and all. I totally agree on the fresh eyes thing — it’s just like having another person read your college essays. They’ll catch more stuff than you will because they haven’t seen it and automatically corrected it in their heads yet.

    • Eileen

      As long as you don’t treat them like shit based on your judgment, judge away. This applies to misspelled tattoos, ugly tattoos, tattoos, period, or pretty much whatever else someone may choose to ad to her body.

    • kj

      Man, I love a good judge fest, especially when it’s based on poor language/spelling.

      However, this one’s in Italian, and I had to reread it like 4 times to catch the error. I will snicker at someone with a spelling error in English or Spanish, or the dreaded misplaced apostrophe – those are the worst.

    • anon

      I think honestly, the right person to judge in this situation would be the tattoo artist. They have the final responsibility for what goes on peoples’ bodies, and I know a few people who actually have had irresponsible or stupid artists misspell or mess tattoos up by accident without their knowledge. A talented, trained, and smart tattoo artist would NEVER agree to do a tattoo without checking and double-checking!