Tu cuerpo se constela de signos verdes
como el cuerpo del árbol de renuevos.
No te importe tanta pequeña cicatriz luminosa:
mira al cielo y su verde tatuaje de estrellas. – Octavio Paz
Do you have a tattoo? Would you ever consider getting one? What do you think of tattoos? Yea or nay? I like tattoos in theory (though rarely in actuality), and I wish I were brave enough to get one. A beautiful sleeve or something on my upper arm or shoulder or back. It doesn’t fit well with my personality, though. And I like simplicity–white walls, clear surfaces, silence. I’ll live vicariously through other people’s tattoos, then.
Yesterday I learned how to say to get a tattoo in Spanish: hacerse un tatuaje
Ah! I never knew. I knew tatuaje, of course, as well as tatuar/tatuarse. But I didn’t know hacerse un tatuaje. Who knows, maybe I’ll be seized by some perfect line or image someday when I’m in a Spanish-speaking country. Now I’ll know how to tell someone to direct me to the nearest tattoo parlor stat.
You’d think that maybe you could just say tatú for tattoo, but it doesn’t work that way. Tatuaje sounds to me like tattooage, which sounds like how you’d describe the oeuvre of tattoos on a person’s body. Rest assured, though: tatuaje is tattoo, and tatú is, well, an armadillo. At least in the Southern Cone. I remember learning that word from Horacio Quiroga. One time in Medellín, I was with a group of people when one guy walked off for a while. When he came back, he said he’d gone across the street to eat a gurre sandwich. Gurre, as it turned out, is a rural Colombian word for armadillo. An armadillo sandwich? I can’t tell you how glad I am that I wasn’t offered any. Cachicamo is another Colombian way of saying armadillo.
I’ll admit that I don’t understand the grammar in the construction hacerse un tatuaje. It would sound like you’re giving yourself a tattoo, but I implicitly trust that somehow, in some way, it means just what it’s supposed to mean. It reminds me of hacerse un manicure, which is how you say to get a manicure, something I did many, many times in Colombia. Or, me corté el pelo, which is how you say I got a haircut. I don’t understand how these reflexive actions actually refer to someone else doing it to you, but I don’t understand how anything works in English either. Let’s let sleeping dogs lie.
Want a tattoo in Spanish but lack inspiration? Let’s look at a few.
Feel inspired? Ready to get inked up? Nah, me neither. It’s interesting, though, to see what messages people try to immortalize on their bodies. Our bodies are temporary, anyway–why not make it our canvas? If you absolutely had to get a tattoo in Spanish, what line or word would you choose? To put it differently, if someone paid you a million dollars to get a tattoo of something in Spanish, what would you pick and why? Me, hmm. If just a word, maybe ojalá. A phrase? Mm, surely something from Neruda or Cortázar or García Lorca. Or Silvio Rodríguez. You may have, ahem, noticed that I’m a big fan of these people! What about you? Ever hear anything in Spanish so beautiful or so poignant you’d etch it on your body? Maybe this blog is my tattoo–I’m writing things down here because there isn’t room enough on my body. So many beautiful words, so many words full of meaning. Where are you writing things down?