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Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Jan 22, 2007 11:45 pm

• tattoo •

Pronunciation: tæ-tu Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun or Verb

Meaning: 1a. An evening drum beat or bugle call signaling soldiers or sailors to return to their quarters. 1b. A military march accompanied by music and other sound effects such as volleys of gunfire. 1c. A continuous tapping or drumming sound. 2. A permanent design made on the skin by injecting dyes beneath the skin.

Notes: Today we are offering two words for the price of one (and an unbeatable price it is, too). There are, in fact, two words tattoo, as the meanings above and Word History below indicate. This implies that there are, as well, two verbs tattoo. The first means to drum or thump successively, as to tattoo the table nervously with your fingers. The second verb tattoo means simply to implant a graphic tattoo under the skin. A person who makes such implantations is a tattooist.

In Play: Although most people who apply tattoos to their skin do so for aesthetic reasons, practical motivations abound: "Clarissa finally gave up and had a tattooist tattoo all her Internet passwords on her arm." In the following sentence, it is difficult to tell which of the two tattoos are intended: "When the rear wheel of Harley's motorcycle spun in the mire, it tattooed his back with mud spatters.

Word History: Tattoo in the first sense comes from Dutch taptoe "tap-shut", where tap refers to the beer spigot in a tavern. The Dutch bugle call, therefore, not only calls soldiers back to camp but lets tavern owners know that it was time to halt the flow of beer. That same Dutch word tap is the origin of the final bugle call of the evening or the one played at military funerals known as taps. The second tattoo, like the like-sounding taboo, is a Marquesan word brought to England from the Polynesian islands by Captain James Cook. This is why tattooing was first seen in the West on sailors. Today, of course, the craze to imitate the Polynesians has spread throughout the US and Britain. (We thank our old friend, Lyn Laboriel, for another word that tattoos itself to our minds.)
Last edited by Dr. Goodword on Sun Apr 22, 2012 6:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Perry » Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:23 am

In Asheville I think that it is easier to count the people without tattoos, than those with.
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Postby dougsmit » Tue Jan 23, 2007 6:30 am

Should we note that the Polynesian tattoo is applied with a sharp needle imbedded in a piece of wood. The needle is positioned over the area to be marked and the wood is tapped with another piece of wood causing the needle to pierce the skin repeatedly. Western tattooists use electric needles but the original was tapped into the skin.

Was this noted in the original English use of the word or just a coincidence?
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Postby Perry » Tue Jan 23, 2007 10:14 am

tattoo (1)
"signal," 1688, "signal calling soldiers or sailors to quarters at night," earlier tap-to (1644, in order of Col. Hutchinson to garrison of Nottingham), from Du. taptoe, from tap "faucet of a cask" (see tap (2)) + toe "shut." So called because police used to visit taverns in the evening to shut off the taps of casks. Transf. sense of "drumbeat" is recorded from 1755. Hence, Devil's tattoo "action of idly drumming fingers in irritation or impatience" (1803).
tattoo (2)
"mark the skin with pigment," 1769 (noun and ver, both first attested in writing of Capt. Cook), from a Polynesian noun (e.g. Tahitian and Samoan tatau, Marquesan tatu "puncture, mark made on skin").

Interesting idea, but the evidence is against it. Note that the sense of drumming dates to 1755, whereas Polynesian tattoo dates from 1769. Moreover, the Polynesian tattoo comes from a noun in the native language.
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Postby gailr » Tue Jan 23, 2007 3:46 pm

Jennyanydots achieved musical fame for organizing a beetle's tattoo.

hmmm...shouldn't that be beetles' tattoo?

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Postby Ferrus » Fri Jan 26, 2007 7:23 am

I have heard the first meaning of this word in adverts for the Edinburgh Tattoo.

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Postby Stargzer » Sat Jan 27, 2007 11:06 pm

From Bivouac of the Dead by Theodore O'Hara 1820–1867):

THE MUFFLED drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on Life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.



"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
-- Attributed to Richard Henry Lee

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Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Mar 17, 2012 3:40 pm

Stargzer, I am familiar with the poem, "Bivouac of the Dead" by Theodore O'Hara. After reading your post I Googled O'Hara and learned about his adventurous life. Thanks for bringing him to my attentikon.
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Postby bamaboy56 » Sat Mar 24, 2012 1:24 am

Great poem, Stargzer. Thanks! They loosened up the dress code at my place of employment and now allow the people working in one of the departments to wear shorts. I was shocked to suddenly discover the number of women working in that department who have tattoos on their ankles. I can sympathize with Perry. Where I work, it would be easier to count the ones without a tattoo than with them (men or women). I include myself in that. When I was a teenager, I remember my mother telling me that one of the things I was NEVER allowed to do was to get a tattoo. Being the once-rebellious person that I was, I went out and got one. I managed to keep it hidden from her until I became an adult, moved out of the house, got married and had two kids of my own. Even then, when she found out about it, I had to report to her and explain why I got it! Good grief. I guess once a kid, always a kid. :D
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