Ariana Grande's Japanese tattoo fail: what we can learn

November 10, 2023

Everyone makes mistakes. 

But I think we can all agree that Ariana Grande’s epic fail of a tattoo – the Japanese characters on her hand that were supposed to read “7 Rings” (her hit single), but actually read “small charcoal grill” – was one for the memory books.

The singer’s proud Instagram story and tweet showing off her ode to Japanese barbecue (BBQ) exploded on social, subjecting her more mockery and ridicule than she was prepared for.

“Pl(ea)s(e) leave me and my tambourine grill alone” – was Ariana Grande’s response to her tattoo’s unexpected stint in the spotlight.

Although to give her some credit, she did hold her hands up and admit her mistake, but claimed the pain of getting the tattoo in the first place was too great to justify adding any more characters the first time around: “… I wouldn’t have lasted one more symbol lmao”.

Such a shame, though, as it turns out that the tattoo was only missing a character and a couple of other small tweaks.

Fancy learning a few fun facts about Japanese?

Why Grande’s first attempt at the tattoo actually meant Japanese BBQ & grill

According to Busuu’s Japanese expert, each character has several meanings, which then change, depending on whether they appear by themselves, or together with other characters.

So Ariana Grande’s first attempt that put 輪 (meaning circle or ring) with 七 (meaning the number seven) ended up meaning ‘small charcoal grill’ (and handing Ariana a big slice of humble pie!), even though, when you look at the characters individually, they mean ‘7 Rings’.

It turns out that all she’d have needed to do to get it right was add a 指 (meaning finger) in front of 輪 … And then a couple of grammatical flourishes after 七.

We won’t bore you with the details, but the most accurate translation of Grande’s hit single ‘7 Rings’ actually looks like this: 七つの指輪

Confused? We’re not surprised!

But that’s the thing about languages like Japanese: they’re so compact – so while missing out a letter in languages like English, French or Spanish might only mean you’ve made a typo, missing out a character and a few structural elements in Japanese can entirely change the meaning.

So what did Ariana decide to do about her tattoo?

Naturally, she went and got it ‘corrected’. Except it’s now arguably worse than before…

Everything that’s wrong with Ariana’s tattoo attempt number two

Ariana’s tattoo saga continues.

For instead of removing the tattoo altogether and starting from scratch, she added the missing character beneath the second character meaning seven (七).

She also forgot to add the grammatical flourishes.

Then, to top it off, she put a token heart on the end. You know, just for good measure.

What this means for any Japanese speaker is that it’s now impossible to know which way to read the tattoo, because no matter whether you read it horizontally from left to right, or vertically from right to left (the two standard ways to read Japanese), the tattoo doesn’t make any sense.

Some, however, are claiming that the tattoo now reads ‘Japanese BBQ finger’.

But one thing’s for sure. It definitely no longer reads ‘small charcoal grill’. Small mercies, eh?

But enough with the ridiculing. We’ve made fun of Ariana enough for one day!

And jokes aside, if you’re still intrigued by Japanese characters (we don’t blame you – they’re awesome!), but don’t want to do a repeat of Ariana Grande’s tattoo fail, what sort of Japanese tattoo should you go for?

5 great Japanese tattoo ideas (and their true meanings)

When it comes to Japanese tattoos, the best options are often the most authentic and simple.

Plus, Japan has a such a rich and beautiful heritage – so why not honour the country’s traditions and choose a message that means something to you?

Check out our five Busuu recommended options to get you started.

1. Freedom tattoo

Japanese for freedom, liberty – tattoo inspiration

2. Motivational tattoo

Japanese for keep persevering – tattoo inspiration

3. Peace tattoo

4. Promise tattoo

5. Warrior tattoo

Japanese for warrior, soldier – tattoo inspiration

The moral of the story? Japanese translations can make for beautiful, meaningful tattoos – and a super-fun learning experience.

Just make sure you know what you’re branding on your body to avoid getting a tattoo that either means something random, or makes zero sense to native speakers!

And as a wise woman once told me, a tattoo is like a piece of clothing that you can’t ever take off. So to save yourself from the pain of having it redone, make sure you’re in love with it before you give your tattoo artists the go-ahead.

Enjoyed this post? You’ll also like…

Learn up to 12 languages online with Busuu

Learn a language