Nicki Minaj has one of the more interesting Chinese tattoos out there. It’s not particularly pretty (it was clearly not the ink work of a Chinese calligrapher!), but the traditional characters are
correct mostly correct and legible. The tattoo:
It means “God is with you.”
The tattoo uses traditional Chinese characters:
Here’s the simplified character version (it only differs by one character):
Shàngdì yǔ nǐ cháng zài
The grammar, though, seems a little strange to me. The sentence I’m used to hearing (at Catholic churches in China) is:
同在 is just a fancy way to say “to be with.” So what’s up with 常在? You’re probably used to 常 taking on the meaning of “often,” “frequent,” or “usually,” as in 常常, 经常, 通常, 平常, etc. “God is usually with you” certainly doesn’t seem like the most confidence-insiring blessing.
Here, though, 常 is used more to refer to a “normal,” unchanging, continuous state. So although neither this sentence nor the Catholic version is everyday Chinese, they both make sense.
When I asked my wife for her impressions on Nicki Minaj’s tattoo, she made the following comments:
- Those characters look like they were written by a poorly-educated elementary school student.
- She should have chosen simplified characters; less ink is less pain.
- Foreigners’ Chinese character tattoos are like our stupid English t-shirts. But at least we can take off the t-shirts whenever we want.