The Names Puzzle

Today's victim decided to tattoo all the names of his family members, in Hebrew, on his leg:

Now, we've been over this one before. You should never attempt to transcribe a name into Hebrew, unless you know Hebrew really well.

The names, for some reason, are written top-to-bottom. Bad idea! Hebrew is not a top-to-bottom language, it's a right-to-left language. You can write words top-to-bottom for decorative purposes, but then putting them next to each other is very stupid.

Let's sum up the damage (starting at the right corner):
  • Geanat - Very misspelled. Was it supposed to be Ganneth, maybe Janet? It's impossible to tell.
  • Alan - Misspelled, since the last letter in that name is a Nun, which should appear in its final form, and doesn't. I'm not at all sure the author was going for Alan, either. It might well have been intended to be Ellen.
  • Raina - It's readable, but not at all how you'd write it according to conventions.
  • Mikhaal - I guess it was supposed to be Michael (My-Kel), but it doesn't read that way. Michael is a biblical name, it's very easy to look up the correct spelling.
  • Raines - If it was meant to read Raines, that's not how you'd write it. If it was meant to be something else, then I don't know what that is.

Why did this disaster of a tattoo happen to out poor victim?

Well, just knowing the alphabet isn't enough. Many sounds have several Hebrew letters that can represent them (such as V,K,A,KH), Other sounds don't have any representation in the old Hebrew alphabet, and have special accommodations in Modern Hebrew (like: ZH, CH, TH). There are the final-form letter that shouldn't be neglected.

And, of course, there are the conventions. Most foreign names actually have conventions for the way you would write them in Hebrew. Writing them differently looks very bad.


  1. I just love your blog:) In Poland where I live, it's so common to get some chinese- or hebrew-spelled tattoos. Funny thing, that polish is a beautiful language, and we do have some "funny" letters as well, but people tend to get totally understandable tattoos thinking maybe that's really cool:)
    Keep on posting:)

  2. Seems like the person who did the spelling had some background in Yiddish, where ע is for SEGOL.

  3. It does appear that the guy spilled alphabet soup on his leg. (then tried to make it spell 'Solidarinosc'?

  4. Lets play a game: how many words can we make using the letters from this tattoo?

    I'll begin:

  5. I agree with Shmulik; this was transcribed to Yiddish, not Hebrew. When read as Yiddish, This makes perfect sense.

  6. It does look Yiddish. Maybe it was the author's intention. We'll never know (maybe neither will he LOL). However, having a Yiddish tattoo sounds so ridiculous, and the transcription of "Michael" looks awful in any case :)

    Why don't people use the old-school Hebrew alphabet for their tattoos? It would look much cooler and be harder for people like yourselves to find mistakes and laugh at them :P

  7. Lol you're right it's probably Yiddish.
    Conventionally you would write this in Hebrew:

    *I don't know these names at all

  8. this is kind of silly...sorta...but my great grandma spoke yiddish and i was wanting to get a tattoo in yiddish because she spoke it and she died a couple years ago. I am a girl and i want it to say 'save me from myself' can someone please tell me the correct way this needs to be written. i wanna do it right cause she was very dear to me and so far this is the only 'non dictionary' type source i could find.

    Thanks :)

  9. Looks like Yiddish to me... although even then it misses Yiddish Nikud for the Alef :)

  10. Hello, my name is Gautier, i'm french.

    First, sorry for my English..

    I found your blog looking for Yiddish Tattoos !
    I would like to make a Tattoo, but without errors !!
    In my tattoo i would like to put names like this :

    Alain Nicole Loïc
    Manuel Dolores
    Marie-madeleine Henri

    Alone i traduced with that :

    אַלאַין ניקאָלא לאָיק

    מאַנועל דאָלאָרעס

    מאַריע מאַדעלעינע הענרי

    There must be some mistakes ?!
    Can u help me ??

    Thank you so much !!


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