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British Expat Newsletter:
23 April 2008

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Tattoos
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

Have you ever been tempted to get a tattoo? A lot of people regard them as taboo, associating them with criminal or anti-social culture. But fashions change, and in the last couple of decades tattoos have come back into vogue in Western culture after a long absence.

In some cultures, they never went away. The practice of inking a more or less permanent design onto the skin was widespread in pre-literate societies, as a badge of rank, a rite of social or religious passage or a tribal association marking. Perhaps the most famous of all societies using tattoos in this way was (and is) the Maori people of New Zealand. (It was the discovery of the practice among Polynesian peoples by Captain Cook and his crew that led to the re-introduction of the practice in Europe, and also the custom among sailors of having their bodies adorned with often elaborate tattoo art. But tattoos were also used as a mark of ownership to identify slaves, or identification for prisoners, as was done in the case of concentration camp inmates in Nazi Germany. Hence the negative associations that prevail so widely today.

Historically they’ve also been seen very much as a “man thing” – feminine tattoos were regarded as something of a contradiction in terms, and “painted ladies” were seen as something for the freak shows popular in Victorian times. But when Janis Joplin had a heart tattooed on her left breast, and an elaborate “bracelet” around her left wrist, she helped to some extent to restore the fashionability or respectability of tattoos among women. Move on thirty years, and it was no great surprise to see Britney Spears get several tattoos in her rise to fame.

Actually, one Britney Spears tattoo was very typical in two more ways. Lower back tattoos are quite popular among women, as are fairies. Many women who have themselves tattooed say they do so as a way of asserting ownership over their bodies and of taking control. It’s notable that the tattoos typically seen as feminine tend to be discreet little designs, often in places that are easily concealed rather than in more obvious places like the arms or face. (On the other hand, there’s a whole range of cosmetic tattooing that has the effect of permanent make-up, such as eyebrow pencil.)

Celebrities’ tattoos are, not surprisingly, a popular source of inspiration for their fans. David Beckham’s tattoos are legendary (but more of those later). Robbie Williams’s angel is maybe predictable; less so is his “All You Need Is Love” tattoo in the small of his back, complete with music and chords! Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode’s tattoo art is more unusual as it focuses on the mystic, including an “Om” on his right collarbone and a Celtic cross on his left upper arm.

Another major line in tattoos is as an expression of love. “In Loving Memory” tattoos are surprisingly common, often taking the form of the dear departed’s initials, perhaps included in a cross tattoo or a guardian angel tattoo. But so are designs which are based on the name of a child, a spouse or even a fiancé(e). Sadly, the tattoo may last longer than the love in some cases. Johnny Depp’s tattoo “Winona forever” on his right bicep is a case in point; after his relationship with Winona Ryder broke up in 1993, he had the tattoo altered to read “Wino forever”!

On that point, it’s well worth remembering that though fashions change, tattoos are forever. Witness David Beckham’s minor disaster when getting Victoria’s name in Devanagari (Hindi) script on his left forearm; he ended up with “Vihctoria”. Or the guy who went to get himself a tattoo of his late father’s regimental badge – but the job had to be interrupted halfway through when the tattooist suddenly realised that neither he nor his client was sure of the correct spelling of “Airborne”…

So if you’re going to get yourself inked, make sure you get your spellings right – and that your tattoo artist does too!

Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not tell us on the forum?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

There’s an interesting gallery of some of the more notable celebrity tattoos at [Obsolete link removed]

The website of New Zealand’s Te Papa museum has some good pages on the origins of “moko”, the Maori art of tattoos, including some galleries of artists at work.

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • silk and satin sex
  • save the world daisy may
  • captain kangaroo cabin crew
  • british flag girl shoes
  • oh its magic cannot believe it s so lyrics
  • why do you have haggis on burns night you better tell me
  • symptoms in english lessons
  • older butch bears
  • sister . jessical blessing waterman
  • neepy

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“A quote is just a tattoo on the tongue.”

– William Devault, author

Joke

A nurse was on duty in A&E, when a punk rocker entered.

This young woman had purple hair styled into a mohican, a variety of tattoos and strange clothing.

It was determined that the patient had acute appendicitis, and so she was scheduled for immediate surgery.

When she was completely disrobed on the operating table, the staff found that her pubic hair had been dyed green and above it was a tattoo reading: “Keep off the grass.”

After the prep and the surgery, the surgeon added a small note to the dressing which said: “Sorry, had to mow the lawn.”

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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