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The Schmooze

When Bad Hebrew Happens to Good People

Getting inked isn’t abhorrent behavior for Jews these days. There’s HebrewTattoo.net, a translation service that generates thousands of hits each month, and celebrity tattooists like Ami James, the Israeli-born former star of TLC’s “Miami Ink.”

But Jews looking to inscribe their bodies with the language of prayer might be wise to ignore the cautionary (and disproved) pleas of their rabbis and mothers and check out a site called Bad Hebrew Tattoos. Managed by a 28-year-old Israeli web developer who goes by Typo Tat, the site criticizes and corrects faulty — and often hilarious — Hebrew tattoo translations.

The site’s purpose is to “raise awareness of the dangers of the Hebrew tattoo trend, to prevent people from making an uninformed decision,” said Typo Tat, who declined to divulge his identity. Most of the images come from online photo-sharing sites, but he does take submissions. Started just over a year ago, the site draws about 500 unique hits a day.

Although Typo Tat has no translation background, the examples he receives are often so egregious they’d make any Hebrew speaker snicker. While the site’s meant to have educational value, it’s difficult to suppress schadenfreude. Take the woman who tattooed the cringe-worthy “I’m For Free” down her spine, or the one who foolishly spelled out her chosen Hebrew phrase, “Child of God,” with English typeset. The resulting translation: dog fo dlich.

Tattoos are a matter of taste, but bad ones — Hebrew or not — deserve to be exposed. “I started my blog to warn and deter,” Typo Tat said.

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