date: Thu, Jan 1, 2009 at 8:32 PM
subject: Please tell me my friend's tattoo means "understand"
I hope you don't mind me asking, but my friend just got this tattoo and says it means "listen/understand". I've seen enough of Hanzi Smatter to cringe even before I know how bad it is. What's the verdict?
We don't really want to beat up on this lovely lady and her cute tattoo too much, but the fact is that the character 承 by itself probably does not mean quite what she thinks it does.
First, we have to decide whether the tattoo is supposed to be in Chinese or Japanese.
If it is supposed to be Chinese, a single character is fine, but the Chinese meaning of the character is more like "to bear, to carry" or "to undertake" or "to receive." But none of these meanings is even close to the intended meaning of "listen/understand."
If it is supposed to be Japanese, the single character 承 does not have much meaning, but rather if it is supposed to be a verb, it must be written with two characters: 承る. Now this verb has various meanings and some of them are somewhat close to "listen" or "understand," but mostly the word is used as a very humble and polite way to agree with the other person in a conversation, so one might say 承ります when one means "I hear you" or "I understand your point." It is really nothing like "listen."
We guess this is the only way we could stretch the meaning of 承 to something like "hear" or "understand" but we don't think is really what they meant and even that is a stretch because the verb marker る is missing from 承る.
So unfortunately, this is a case of "close but no cigar."
Ben, give our best regards and sincere commiseration to the unfortunately tattooed friend.