10 Dec 2011

Do you really want a tattoo?

I am not a great fan of tattoos. I know that making indelible marks on people's skin is an ancient practice and well respected in some cultures, particularly in Polynesia.

Tattoos found on Egyptian and Nubian mummies date from about 2000 B.C., and classical authors mention the use of tattoos in connection with ancient Greeks, ancient Germans, Gauls, Thracians and ancient Britons. Taking the above list, it should be said that all these people were renowned for their ferociously barbaric behaviour, with the possible (and highly debatable) exception of the Ancient Greeks who used tattooing simply as a means of identifying spies!

Tattooing was later rediscovered by Europeans when exploration brought them into contact with Polynesians and American Indians. The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian word tattau, which means "to mark," and was first mentioned in explorer James Cook’s records from his 1769 expedition to the South Pacific. Because tattoos were considered so exotic in European and U.S. societies, tattooed Indians and Polynesians drew crowds at circuses and fairs during the 18th and 19th centuries. English sailors adopted the practice and re-introduced it to Europe where even English kings and nobility apparently adopted it, probably to prove that they were as fierce as those against whom they fought.


In other words, there seems to me to be something very much linked to pretence and boasting about tattoos, and what I see today around me confirms me in this. Just go down to the local gym and look around! Or watch modern rugby.

Now, if you are still unsure about whether you want to take the plunge or not, take a look at this chart. Like a couple of other images that I have used on this blog in the past, I found it on the excellent Spanish collective blog called 8negro (see link in the list of blogs I enjoy in the margin). I don't know who designed it, but it is pretty smart. You will see that there are many more reasons not to get tattood than the opposite.