The permanence of words


Most people who get tattoos choose pictures or symbols, but now and then someone decides to permanently imprint words on his skin, words that meant so much to him that he needed them to be at hand for always.   I’ve thought many times of getting ink, although I usually talk myself out of it long before I get anywhere near a facility to have it done.  And when I am in the tattooing mood, it’s usually one of two symbols, not words.  But if I was of a mind to put someone else’s words on my flesh, I might choose ” Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war” (Julius Caesar) or possibly ” We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother” (Henry V.)  Or maybe “We must take a hard road, a road unforeseen.  Therein lies our hope.” (The Fellowship of the Ring).

Tell me…what word or phrase or paragraph would you consider tattooing on yourself?


18 comments to The permanence of words

  • Steph

    My favorite phrase that I’ve ever read comes from “Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness” by Edward Abbey. The entire sentence is: “We are obliged, therefore, to spread the news, painful and bitter though it may be for some to hear, that all living things are kindred.” What I would tattoo is just the “all living things are kindred.”

    Cool post idea and fun to think about.

  • Rivka

    or possibly
    Life is Change

  • I’d get Patience and Fortitude on my arms, with the lions as well.

  • I’m torn between “Be True” and “Don’t Panic” The other literary quotes are just too long. Though I have to say there’s a great chance if I went with a longer phrase it would also be from Henry V.

  • Speaking of long passages….did you see the guy who had a whole paragraph of “Fight Club” on his back?


  • I wonder what it would feel like to see someone with a tattoo of a quote from your own works? That would probably feel really weird.

  • Kaeleigh

    Fabulous thought! I have often thought of a tattoo but am a lot like you in that I usually back out before even getting started. However, I would be much more keen to the idea of a word or phrase. The only problem then would be to choose only one. There are many that I would want, one of those being from a poem by Emerson, “Each and All.” The quote is, “All are needed by each one. Nothing is good or fair alone.” Orrr…”Nothing grows in stagnant water.” No idea where that one came from but it is also the heading for my LJ profile.

  • Note to self: don’t go tattooing your WIP on peoples arms when they’re asleep… it could get messy.
    I don’t think I could get a tattoo, I had five years of IVF and that’s enough needles for a lifetime. Besides what if you didn’t like the book anymore would you do a Angelina and get it wiped? hmmmm.
    Perhaps you could use a hero or heroine that had a quote like that on their arm? that could work and you wouldn’t have to go through the pain.

  • DVM SPIRO SPERO. “While I breathe, I hope”

  • If I ever DID bite the bullet and have ink done, it would either be a skull & crossbones wearing belly dance hair ornaments, or the symbol of Erzulie. And it would be on my lower back, so that it showed when I danced, but not in ordinary clothes.

    “Perhaps you could use a hero or heroine that had a quote like that on their arm? that could work and you wouldn’t have to go through the pain.”

    I was thinking the same thing! 😀

  • Jenny

    I wouldn’t get words. Words are slippery to me. Transitory. (Oh, the perils of being an editor!) Images can convey so much more than words, I think. Which is why I have a tattoo that’s a picture, not a word. 🙂 And no, it didn’t hurt and yes, I was completely sober. It was a very reputable place–they don’t tattoo people if they’ve been drinking.

  • Either “Illegitimi non carborundum ” (bad latin for ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down’) or “No fate”, which is shamelessly Terminator 2, but demmit, I like it.:)

  • Catie said, “No fate”, which is shamelessly Terminator 2, but demmit, I like it.:)”

    I love that, too! (Yep, huge Terminator fan from way back, me.)

  • “Either “In the Beginning….” or “I am the Alpha and Omega”

    Or from Literature….

    “Don’t Panic!” or “He Who Comes with the Dawn”

  • Mark said, “I am the Alpha and Omega”

    I was a major fan of the Chris Carter show “Millennium”, which featured a scary stalker/killer who declared himself the Alpha and Omega.

    So if you had that on one arm and “Don’t Panic” on the other, I’d probably spin in confused circles. *laughs*

  • If I ever got a tattoo… well, it would either be a phrase, or it would be a wedding ring, one of the two. 🙂 I have a few ones I like.

    “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.) I love the sense of irony this phrase evokes. This man wrote some amazing lines.

    “Deus Vult.” I saw these in a picture of a pair of knuckle tattoos, in Latin. The English translation is ‘God wills it.’

    “In Light of Darkness.” A line of my own making. After I finish my current projects, I mean to write a novel with this title.

    … You know. If nothing changes between here and there. (And what’re the chances of that happening?) 🙂

  • Speaking of Vonnegut, how about “So it Goes”?

    My Sister and her Husband have one another’s names tattooed on their backs, but translated into Elvish!

    I Think that Maybe, If I were standing in the tattoo parlor right now, making the life-altering decision, I would get “NERD” tattooed on my left wrist. It would remind me of my roots. Keep me humble and make me proud at the same time.

    Instead of etching this or any other phrase into my skin, though, I think I will try and etch life’s important words permanently into my mind, where they belong, and where they might do me some good.

  • Ben Reeder

    Funny someone should mention characters with tattoos. My primary character in my next story is getting a tattoo. It would be the word “Freedom” in an ancient language, because he used to be a slave.

    If I were to get a word tatto, it would be “So mote it be…” in either Latin or Futhark runes. Makingit in some other language moves it from the realm of “everyday” and makes it special.