“Quod me nutrit, me destruit” is a kitschy Latin phrase that generally translates into “What nourishes me, also destroys me.” Young people love to spout that phrase because they relate the idea of “nourishment” to sex, drugs, alcohol and probably, at one time, Rock and Roll.
Angelina Jolie has “Quod me nutrit, me destruit” tattooed on her lower abdomen along with a thick, black, cross — making one wonder if the “destruction” is in the semiotic cross or what the bottom of the cross is pointing to while she sucks her thumb.
Nietzsche also has an oft-employed quote “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” that many young people also immortalize in ink on their skin:
Is there cold human comfort offered in these quotes about destruction and strength?
Do people invoke these quotes to provide power in the thoughts of others or are they instead trying to advertise a fleeting, false, intellect?
Does anyone ever question the validity of these quotes before permanently imprinting them on their largest organ?
Is it true nourishment destroys — or is that phrase now merely a convenient platitude?
I can think of a lot of people who were not killed by terrible accidents but they are in no way stronger after the experience.
Are we able to provoke meaning from quoting others; or are we only pretending to honor memory by recycling the past?
Do you have a favorite quote?
If yes — what is the quote — and did you have it tattooed on your body?
Actually, I always thought Jolie’s tattoo was pretty awesome. Then again, anything Latin is awesome…
I must admit I have a thing for tattoos. Funny that you should post this article this morning, because I was eating with some friends last night at this joint in the city that was crawling with heavily tattooed dreadlocked pierced types.
I remarked, “Look at the tattoos, some of them are gorgeous!”
Everybody looked at me like I was a weirdo…
In trying to understand Angelina’s tatoo, I don’t think we need go too deep. Maybe she was using the phrase literally, commenting on eating, and how it tends to make one fat, thereby destroying a Hollywood image. Her reminder when she looks in the mirror to stay away from the pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.
As for the cross– no connection to the Latin, just a trendy symbol popularized by Madonna.
What is it that interests you about tattoos, Emily? Is it the freedom they provide or the rebellion against the norm they define?
At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, with young people today it’s become the norm to have easily visible tattoos. It has almost become a rebellion against the norm for a late teen or twenty-something to show a lot of skin without tattoos.
I think the placement of the phrase on her body is important. People who get tats have a significant experience deciding where to place the image and how it is positioned. She chose an intimate and erotic place that is generally hidden by clothing.
The longitude and latitude of where her children were born rests on her exposed left arm.
Adding the cross next to the phrase at just that angle is definitely a strong and suggestive sexual semiotic.
I find the whole image quite complicated and telling.
I also am a little bewilded by this tattoo as much as I am by the timing…A day before a wedding?!
Or maybe she just liked the quote just because someone has a tat in A certain spot doesn’t mean there’s a reason for it beyond that they liked the spot
8 year tattoo artist
I do not find tattoos particularly rebellious or “against the norm.” True, they may be outlawed in most workplaces, but they have become much too popular to be considered rebellious or unique.
I just like to look at them, the same way I like to look at photographs or paintings. I don’t go in for all that skull-and-crossbones, naked devil woman, barbed wire and blood stuff. But I love those big full-color designs.
I realize a lot of younger people are tatted but most of the nation is not.
Are you inked?
Really? I find that a lot of the generation before me is also inked. Maybe I am a bit biased because I grew up in the Air Force, but it seems to me that most of my parents friends both back then and now in retirement have tattoos. It also seems that more and more adults are getting tattooed now as it becomes more accepted even if they did not start getting tattoos when they are younger.
Ah, yes, but once all you fogies die out, the nation will be mostly tatted! 😉
Yes, I am inked.
What and where is your tat and is it reflexive or reflective, you rebel, you!
Alright, I will tell you, but you cannot judge me for it as you have judged poor Ms. Jolie!
Mine is also a phrase. Mine is also in Latin. It is “Forma Mentis Magna Immortalisque,” which translates as “The beauty of the mind is great and immortal.”
As for where I had it inked, that was a bit of a conundrum. It is a large tattoo, so I needed a large expanse of skin. But, I didn’t want the tattoo to be visible. So, that limited me to my lower abdomen, my lower back or across my two buttcheeks. Wasn’t too much of a fan of having a tattoo across my bottom (not to mention having to lay on a table in public with it exposed for God knows how long) and I was worried that a tattoo across my gut would stretch out and be rendered unreadable if I ever got pregnant. So I opted for the lower back.
So there was a process for choosing the phrase and the placement and the longterm intention!
Here’s a program to help get you some cheap tats:
I absolutely love tattoos, and I have quite a few. Even one that people refuse to believe, until they see it, but most won’t look there, hehe 😉
Every one of my tattoos is deeply personal and marks something in my life. A couple mark certain accomplishments, some spiritual enlightenment, and so on. But never, and I mean never, have I had a word put on my body.
Partly this is because I am much more moved by symbolism, and I like to keep the meanings close to me. I don’t feel the need to spell things out. Also, I believe in living moment to moment, in a constant state of expectancy and fluidity.
I can’t ever see myself living by credos or quotes. I, and most people I find interesting, are way to diverse and complex to be “summed up” by a quote. Actually I find the idea of being “summed up” by a phrase a bit freaky and stifling.
But hey, to each his or her own. One thing about tattoos, whether words or images, is that it tells you a lot about the person that serves as the canvas.
maybe its just me but your response comes off as very self-righteous. you are basically saying that people with quotes tatooed on their body are boring and not interesting? seriously? lol. as for symbolisms, i have seen enough tribal tatoos that prove to me that those people who get those type of tattooes have no originality or creativity themselves
EVERYONE WANTS A TWO HOUR TAT SESSION FOR FIVE BUCKS!
Thanks for tat insight!
What kinds of images are on you? Are they in color or grey and black?
Do you have any human faces inked?
I have a thing for dragons, and have a few. The dragons symbolize places and events in my life.
I have a grim reaper on my left arm which I had done after talking for hours with a Native American about spiritual issues.
I also have a bat, the flying kind, which is the one that most don’t believe I really have. That one was a test for me, and symbolizes a true struggle in my life. That struggle was against our own government, believe it or not. Even with the bones I have broken and injuries I have received through sports and stupidity over the years, that tat was the most painful thing that I remember.
Thanks for the details.
Why would you want to immortalize a bad event in your life on your skin?
What problem did you have with the government?
Oops, forgot this. The dragons are full color. The Reaper and bat are monotone.
I was just jesting about the pizza.
You are right that the location for a tatoo is meaningful. Here is a website dedicated to discussion of Angelina’s tattoos–
Here is an interesting quote about tattoos made by her:
Usually all my tattoos came at good times. A tattoo is something permanent when you’ve made a self-discovery, or something you’ve come to a conclusion about.
ANGELINA JOLIE, USA Today interview, July 17, 2003
The site also explains that the Latin cross covered up a dragon she got in Amsterdam when she was drunk and had lasered off.
I like Miami Ink. A lot of those on the show seem to get tattoos to commemorate a person who has died.
The tattoo doesn’t represent the bad time, but the victory after the bad event.
I was in the Air Force at the time and developed a seizure disorder. I found this out when I wrecked a government truck during a seizure. The AF was trying to prove that this disorder was not caused on their end and was prosecuting me for the wreck.
This was pretty dark times as I had a strange new illness and while dealing with that I was in risk of doing jailtime and getting a dishonorable discharge.
Lucky for me, my AF attorney was actually in my corner and not on the side of his employer. He had independent screenings and exams set up in the civilian sector and proved that the AF was behind the seizure and thus I was not responsible for the wreck.
After that, things got worse for me in the squadron and a lot of people were gunning for me. I was a big guy at the time. I was a powerlifter and even though they loved pointing out I was Air Force when I did well in meets, they then tried to get judicial punishment on me for breaking weight.
My lawyer came through again. By that time my case was processed and I was honorably discharged for medical reasons one month before my term was up.
After that, I was relieved, but very raw. I felt beaten down, even though I won, and needed to “FEEL” something. I chose pain, but not the negative kind. I got the bat in the most sensitive spot I could find, and I was right. It was a rite of passage of sorts. The story of getting that tattoo is a pretty surreal and amusing, at least now. However, it is probably not appropriate for this blog, he he.
How do you decide if a tat should be in color or black and grey?
I think all of Angelina’s tats are grey and black.
I’ve never gotten a tattoo, but my brother has one of a skull with a dagger jabbed through it on his upper arm.
I’ve seen a lot of women with tattoos lately. Most of them — just as Donna said earlier — are memorials for people who’ve died. Or, of kids and other loved ones.
I knew a woman in the Marines who has a barcode tattoo on her neck and several others on her body. One of the tattoos had her name and blood type. While those tattoos might not have worked on others, they looked good on her.
I suspect a lot of young people with Latin phrases speaking about danger and destruction could be trying to advertise that they have experienced things beyond what their age suggests they should have experienced. Of course, in these days, it is hard to judge what experiences are normal and abnormal.
Thanks for that link, Donna!
It’s interesting what Angelina used to cover up a bad tattoo. There are so many things one could choose, yet she chose the sign of the cross.
“AF was behind the seizure” what does that mean?
Were you on an Air Force scholarship?
Why get discharged a month before your term was up? Why not just go out normally?
Do you get any Air Force benefits now?
Regarding your sensitive place tattoo — tell the story here — just use medical terminology and not slang! 😀 Was it hard to find someone willing to rattle you with a needle there or were people lining up to torture you? 😉
We don’t use “normal” and “abnormal” here! We’re all about “average!!!” 😀
I am tat-less as well. I can’t think of anything enduring enough that I’d want to look at every day.
I always think tats around the neck invite unwanted temptation and staring at a very vulnerable spot — especially if they are gory or instructional like “cut along dotted line” of Indian Larry fame.
nice topic! i don’t have a tattoo myself but i do believe we have a way of using received – and passively accepted – wisdom to prop up our own beliefs/prejudices/needs/hidden agenda. i should know, i do it all the time on my blog!
here’s something that stuck to my mind recently from the epic of gilgamesh (the easy-reading penguin mini-book version!) there’s this part where unsure g musters up the courage to fight the fearsome giant of the forest and (i paraphrase) –
he put on his breastplate, ‘The Voice of Heroes’ and says, ‘let me live to be the wonder of my mother, as when she nursed me on her lap’.
why did the author(s) decide to call the breastplate ‘The Voice of Heroes’? Did the idea spring from the knowledge that we do, from time to time, need to borrow courage and conviction and a sense of security from wisdom received?
It takes courage to get a tattoo — especially where they are extremely visible. Most women have them in places that can be covered up by regular work-type clothing. Even my brother who had a bad attitude toward conformity during the time he got his tattoo made sure that it could be covered up if he a shirt with sleeves.
Speaking of the “extranormal”:
I’ve seen a couple of people with tattoos on their foreheads. I remember stopping at a rest area and seeing a little kid holding his mom’s hand stop and point at a lady with some sort of lace tattoo that was on her forehead. Another time, I saw a guy with some sort of tattoo on his forehead walking around the courthouse. Of course, I’ve also seen the guys with the teardrop tattoos as well.
I drove by a couple of tattoo places today when I was driving into Chicago taking the city streets, instead of the expressways. Next time I’m close to those places, I might have to stop and take some photos. Too bad none of them were open at 7 a.m.
I was working in refrigeration at the time in the civil engineering squadron and some of the chemicals were behind the seizure. It took a couple of years to manifest symptoms and the Air Force was really trying to pin the disorder, and the wreck on me.
They even went so far as to make the claim that I was a closet freon junkie and that my seizure was brought on by clandestine snuffing sessions rather than being exposed over the course of three years working with the chemicals.
The really funny thing was, it wasn’t the freon in the end, but an acid we used seasonally to clean out the systems to get ready for the summer. so much for their case.
I may try to write something on the surreal day when I had my bat tattoo “rite of passage”. I need to think about it a bit. It was a crazy experience that involved biker gangs, invading mothers (not mine), threats of physical violence, near public nudity, extreme pain, and so much more. It even had a minor Henry Rollins angle.
You should write up your story — I’d like to read it!
You ask many interesting questions.
The military especially covets totems — both spoken and medallic — to convey a sense of history, purpose and being. Perhaps tattoos are the civilian equivalent?
YES! Take some shots of tattoos and find out their significant semiotic meaning and placement on the body from each person! Neat idea!
I say if you’re going to get a tattoo — get one on your forehead and get paid for it!
I’m going to ask Emily if she will have “UrbanSemiotic.com” tattooed to her forehead for a dollar.
Why go to the bother and the pain of tatting yourself only to cover it up with your clothes?
I agree, I recently got a tattoo that says “Serenity ~ Courage ~ Wisdom” on the pinky side (“outside”) of my left forearm… almost everyone asked me if I wanted a tattoo in SUCH A VISIBLE place… and suggested I get it on my back or somewhere that can be easily hidden, but I knew if I didn’t get it where I really wanted it, I’d always regret not getting it where I initially planned…
i agree. there was a time when i used to think it was just vain projection. 🙂
I’m glad your fought the Air Force, Eban! We are hearing so many awful stories today about current soldiers who are being blamed for “pre-existing medical conditions” to get them out of the military with no benefits whatsoever.
We look forward to reading more about your bat tattoo experience! 😀
I think it still may be a projection, but not a vain one. 😉
I am emailing you an important note. Please watch for it!
lol! considering most of the time when we respond to a thought it’s more to do with a state of mind. and to commit to something like that takes a lot of courage. i don’t know if that is the right word.
what if it wasn’t projection at all? we have a choice to live by it without having it imprinted on our bodies. is it then a mistrust of our own fickle minds that makes us want to have it tattooed on a body part? a fear that we may forsake the state-of-mind if we didn’t constantly remind ourselves of our commitment to it? i guess that’s one of the things nolan explored in memento.
that’s still projection, isn’t it? 🙂
Memento is my all-time favorite movie, Dananjay! What a great movie about life and memory and belonging.
Tats seem to be more about imprinting moments than calling up valor. I don’t think it’s possible to be valorous every day. I think valor works best in limited moments created by ceremony to serve a greater deed.
I guess everything is some sort of projection, Dananjay — except for internal monologues and inner thoughts! 😀
I just sent you an email!
I’ll take some photos of the local tattoo place next time I get down to that area.
and i used to think projection could only be a pejorative term. 😀
Thanks for the email, my pal! I’m very excited!
Love the tattoo idea. You could make that into a fascinating series!
Love your connections! Very smart!
i thought so too. 😉
My internet is pretty spotty today and the movers are here packing things up for our move. Things are pretty hectic here at the moment. Come Monday my life should be mine again.
I will try to write up an interesting tale about the tattoo then and see if it passes the Boles quality test. I did write a story of the event once, but it was warts and all. I need to clean it up for non-mutant readers 😉
Love it, Eban! Can’t wait to give it a read! Don’t forget to include images of the tat — either real, imagined or sketched! 😀
Good luck on the move! I feel for you. I hate moving. One year after moving to NYC we hopped around five times in a year subletting places until we were accepted into grad student married housing. We lived out of milk crates we borrowed from a grocery store in Washington, D.C.
Listen here buddy, I will be doing no such thing as tattooing my forehead for a dollar! That has to be the silliest thing you’ve pondered in a while, including wondering what to do with the Chocolate Jesus!
Ten Dollars is my final offer!
HA! I fart in your general direction!
Sorry, I watched Monty Python last night…
Okay $15 — but you have to include the full title — “David W. Boles’ Urban Semiotic” instead of the shorter Dot Com version. There’s no need to answer right away — ponder it some.
What’s the difference between inking your spine or your forehead? It’s all your body!
The difference, dear sir, is the fact that I purposely placed my tattoo where people would not see it because I don’t want people to see it. Let’s think of all the things I would have to do if I got a tattoo on my forehead:
1) Quit my job
2) Get new driver’s license
3) Cut my bangs
4) Cease in-person contact with my grandparents and other conservative relatives
5) Explain to every person who ever saw it why I momentarily lost touch with all good judgment/practicality/sanity/etc.
That’s a lot of work for fifteen bucks.
I’m taking that as a “maybe” and I’m holding thumbs you’ll come to your senses.
$15 can buy a lot of cheese today.
I love quotations, I do have a favorite one but I am definitely not a tattoo person. I see it is another form of art using the human body as a canvas, though!
India has an interesting tradition of permanent and semi permanent tattoos for various cultural festivals and rituals which are very intricate and neatly done –
Yes! I remember when my Rutgers students would come to class with those beautiful henna “tattoos” on their hands. The intricacy and beauty in the designs was breathtaking.
Are there certain “semiotic” design pieces that must be incorporated into every tattoo or is it always designer’s choice?
I do not know about any special meaning behind this “henna tattoo” except its aesthetic beauty but there are some tribal tattoos in India which carry some inner meaning – I don’t know much about it…I couldn’t find it online either, sorry! 🙁
Thanks for the detail, Katha!
jst in reply to what you said about angelina`s cross on her low abdomen. she has that tattoo there because she hated the dragon she had there before it and so instead of getting the blue dragon removed she decided to get the cross there to show her love for religion. um real nice article youve got here btw. thanks !
Thanks for the info! Fascinating stuff. It’s a great reason to wonder and examine the scope and meaning of our permanent markings — both hidden and visual.
On my lower back, the infamous quote from William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell: “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”
That’s an interesting quote, Chris! Why did you choose that place on your body to put it?
There are many interpretations that can be made from Ms. Jolie’s tattoo other than your own Cliche’ , that do not relate to drugs, sex or alcohol..
Jolie’s latin idoim can relate to basically anthing nurturing necessity that the body need to survive; water for example, you CANNOT survive without water, water nourishes your body, however it can also drown you. You need heat (fire) to survive, how ever you can burn to death or die from heat exposure. Your body cannot survive without oxygen yet too much and you may be faced with ‘Pulmonary Oxygen Toxicity’ for example.. Ironic right? I believe that this has more meaning behind the a person wanting to seem ‘rebelious’, such as everything in life has to have moderation. Oh and as for the elusive large black cross, that just so happens to have the bottom of one its sides pointing to her ….., ‘apparently’ it was tattooed there to cover up an old one. Although this is symbolic to destruction, it perhaps is not entirely directed at her private areas as if they are the detrimental cause..
Hi alyce and welcome to Urban Semiotic!
I appreciate your take on Ms. Jolie’s tattoos and the analysis of other meanings.
While somewhat late to the discussion on this, i felt i just had to chime in..I thought it was a fascinating read, as were the following comments.
First, on Jolie’s tattoo. This is something i’ve liked since i first saw it. I know this has been a term that’s become popuar with the pro-eating disorder crowd online (in direct connection to Jolie getting it, i’d bet), but I always attributed a totally different meaning to it. Living with two chronic conditions with direct connections to food and digestion (type 1 diabetes & ulcerative colitis), it’s always suggested that sort of vicious circle, the necessity, inevitably or pleasure of food, but connected to the complication or even pain it can lead to. When i first saw the quote, i thought it a very fitting way to sum up my feelings on food at times.
Favorite quotes…Also in latin, but i saw and immediately took to “Inveniam viam aut faciam”, translating to “I will find a way or make one”. As someone else said, just about anything in latin is cool, but this struck me, as someone else later told me, a good strong statement of personal will.
Personally, i have 3 tattoos right now. That quote across my lower back, and symbols on each side of it along with dates of diagnosis to mark the two aforementioned diseases. I always liked them on others, but never really even considered getting one myself. It wasn’t until this past year, at 28, that i felt something significant enough had happened to commemorate in such a way.
Thanks for the great comment, Scott! Your insight is helpful and delightful!
“Quod me . . .” was also Christopher Marlowe’s motto, which seems by far a better and more potent recommendation than Ms. Jolie’s.
Thanks for that extra info!
” A modo mio”, “my way” in Italian.. it means a lot to me as my father was full bloded Italian and this was not only his favorite phrase but also his favorite song buy frank Sinatra.
i got it tattooed more so for his memory. but it is funny how this phrase has taken on such personal meaning to me over the years…
That’s a great story, Richard!
Where do we find that tattoo on you? 😀
Is it straight script or is there some color and decoration with it?
Scarily enough, that Latin aphorism is the name of at least one pro-ana group on Facebook.
I was researching something and decided to look this up (I also write a blog on obesity, which flows from my doctoral work on the subject, and as far as body dysmorphia is concerned, it can take many forms, extreme ones so I explore all sides.)
Ugh, Shefaly! That Facebook group concerns me as my stomach turns. No one can look at the present Ms. Jolie and not want to immediately offer her a sandwich. She is disappearing before our eyes!
What do you consider to be an ideal body — and is that idea any different from an “achievable” body?
I do not think there is an ideal body. It is highly variable – culture being the most significant aspect of variation.
Achievable body is variable too. Angelina J’s body is achievable but Madonna – with food – immensely more useful (no starving for me, I am afraid).
Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s Body Project is calling out to you to read about it 🙂 She has also written a fascinating history of anorexia..
Oh forgot to add:
Ideal – socially constructed
Achievable – one’s own perspective healthy or not.
I’m surprised you think culture should dictate the ideal and not medicine or science. Why the disconnect between values and fact?
Your “ideal” and “achievable” definitions also appear exclude medicine and science. Are you arguing that BMI should not be a consideration when it comes to body type and fat percentages?
What is your take on cholesterol levels? Blood pressure ranges?
Is it possible to be thin, yet medically ill; fat, yet biochemically healthy?
“Is it possible to be thin, yet medically ill; fat, yet biochemically healthy?”
Short answer is of course, yes.
If you just consider how the definition of BMI evolved and how there is still no universal consensus on BMI charts for children, you will see where my ‘culture’ theory comes from. There is also an anthropological angle on which much has been written and is worth considering.
It is not quite accurate to extrapolate my view on body ideal to my views on BP and cholesterol.
But it has to be asked when nearly 70% of Americans (Pew data, not mine) see others as fat but not their own friends and themselves, what forces are at work except culture, psychology and anthropology? 🙂
Thanks for that extra insight, Shefaly!
I am no fan of BMI, either. It’s funny with my Public Health students the only thing that matters to them are numbers and calculations and means and averages.
I try to nudge them away from the mechanical and into the ethereal and cultural — and yet here I am taking their stance in my discussion with you! 😆
I think the reason Americans don’t see themselves as fat even — though they are — is more due to a disconnect between body image and jingoism where nationalism triumphs over any individual body concerns.
Americans can see the fat in others — but to see the fat in themselves directly goes against determinism and the inbred pioneer spirit.
BMI is a good measure for populations but not for individuals, of course. My BMI may put me on the boundary defined by WHO for obesity related co-morbidities in Asians (yes the threshold is lower than for Caucasians), but since the BMI does not take into account the distribution, indeed % of fat in my body, it is not a good predictor of my health trajectory as it may be affected by my weight.
That Pew Research is from 2006 and about half the respondents blame their environment (so much for determinism, eh!). The whole report can be found on:
Your take on BMI and fat distribution is fascinating.
That report reads quaint and wanting of “made-for-televison” headlines to me because it is just too simplistic and narrow-minded in its reach. I wish the sample size were larger and in-person interviews were provided over a longer stretch of time.
People generally overeat because they are fearful and depressed. I have yet to meet an overweight person who is successful and self-confident and we cannot discount those environmental factors that weigh on the psychology of open mouths.
“I have yet to meet an overweight person who is successful and self-confident and we cannot discount those environmental factors that weigh on the psychology of open mouths.”
This surprises me. Many exceptions to this are to be found in the US and I do not wish to name names but I have met at least 15 people whose accomplishments disprove it. Some of them are industry big-wigs that I sought to interview for my research and succeeded. Indeed a few of the highly respected (for which read: well funded, and in an upward spiral of influence) obesity researchers are obese themselves. One could argue 15 is not a statistically significant sample, but it is a large number when we are talking of CxO/ Consulting firm partner type people.
“People generally overeat because they are fearful and depressed.”
People do not _always_ overeat when they are fearful and depressed. The individual manifestations are very different for the same kind of psychological stimuli. The cause-and-effect relationship between depression and appetite is not fully resolved although that depressed people overeat is a general stereotype.
About the report, it is probably the only one of its kind and not many have considered the subject worth investigating. But the dominant themes are not surprising.
I don’t think I’d want a tattoo because I wouldn’t want it to define me or people to define me by the tattoo; I also wouldn’t want anything permanent that I might resent later. The closest to define me that I can think of would be perhaps:
“Who then is the invincible? It is he whom none of the things disturb which are independent of the will.” Epictetus
If I did get one it’d be a quote in simple black and no flourishing or embellishments that would distract from the plain message. And I wouldn’t have it visible, the message is very personal and would only matter to me.
Apart from the Epictetus quote I these are also favourites of mine:
“Only those who dare to fail greatly, can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy
“Of all thieves fools are the worst; they rob you of time and temper.” J. W. Goethe
I didn’t say “always” I said “generally.”
I like your tattoo philosophy and your quotes, iris! Good stuff there!
I’m going to take it literally for the purpose of argument. What nourishes is what destroys a lot of women, especially in Hollywood. The pressure is on to be as thin as possible, and it’s breaking down so many young women all over the world. What nourishes them is what the see killing their self esteem, their body image and their self worth.
The idea of tattooing a phrase like this or any of your examples on your skin, to me, means a lot. A tattoo is a permenant thing and a permanent reminder of who you or who you want to be. “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” is the perfect example- having it forever engrained on one’s body will remind that person to stay strong in hard to deal with situations- loss, tragedy, hardship, etc. The tattoo itself won’t give a person strength, but it will always be there to comfor them and remind them of why they got it- to perservere.
So you feel the skin has better memory than the mind?
Well no… A good point and I’m stumped for an answer to this one 😛
I think it’s harder to forget when you look down and see it everyday maybe. It keeps it fresher in your mind..
Fair enough! 😀
Here are a couple of other tattoo stories you might enjoy:
Not everyone thinks long and hard about tattoos these days and interpretation is part of it. I have a few tattoos and thought has gone in to it for myself but not for how others may interpret them.
I have a Chuck Palahniuk quote on my left ribcage, it reads:
“The unreal is more powerful than the real, because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it, because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. but things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.”
I have a floral design on my lower back and expanding onto the other rib cage. Under the flowers I have “Cuando es hora de morir, cerciórese de que sea todo lo que usted tiene que hacer.” Which means when the time comes to die, be sure that is all you have left to do.
I also have Nosce Ipsum on my inner right wrist, meaning know thyself.
That’s quite a long quote for your ribcage, Danni. How many people have read the whole thing?
I think the first commenter speaks volumes: “I must admit I have a thing for tattoos”….nice one. The sheeple speak again. More conformist cultural brainwashing. How nice to love something that is also admired by 11 year olds as well. Tattoos might once have stood for very different principles, but now, they scream: Trendy, conformist, classless, stereotype. They are ego, bad-taste, and stylistic retardation on parade…by the ignorant hoards that know of no other way to exclaim their….oh the irony…..INDIVIDUALITY! And as always, there is the trickle-up theory, what was once the garb of ghetto streets, becomes a trend of the elite some day. Same with these wretched things.
(of course there are exceptions, there always are)
Now go eat some grass….and ask for a second helping.
Actually, Google fasting (or intermittent fasting or calorie reduction) and you’ll find that “Quod me nutrit, me destruit” is a very literal truth. And one that more people would benefit from being aware of. 😉
how can you personally criticize a group of people for doing something that you consider a trend? will you speak the same as tribes in africa or south america, or even native americans. or how about people who play sports? its all relative in some way shape or form. some people dont use tattos to express individuality. the people of this world dont need to be boring zombies dude. yes i have tattoos. no im not the dude who sits outside starbucks showing off that i drink coffee and know big words. but hell if im not the man at chemistry or physics. im not the every man. but tattoos cant define you. tattoos are all about feelings dude. all this “tattoos are for conformists” is rediculous. im glad you stay away from trends. this isnt pokemon tho. its much more. its actually being able to feel like your someone you like for some people. its individuality to a degree. im a 6’1, 205 lb man with a tattoo across my throat. does it change the situation if i tell you it says GOD? theres no real argument dude. everybody is allowed to voice their own opinion, but a rant that is basically a diss of everyone who gets a tattoo in this society isnt valid. you tried tho.
I’m inked, but they all mean something. Some of them are the more trendy ideas, and some of them are my own-
I have ♥LOVE across the inside of my left wrist, in support of To Write Love On Her Arms.
I have a rosebud anklet on my right ankle, in commemoration of a girlfriend who died.
I have six stars going down my spine, each about the size of a quarter, each a black outline with a thin coloured line on the inside. These also commemorate people I know who have died.
I have “I am beautiful and flawed” on the tops of my feet.
I have “I am not afraid to keep on living” on my ribcage.
I have “The sunrises and the sunsets on the ocean, hope is in the rain
Hope takes my next step forward when I feel like there’s no reason to go on” on my lower back.
The quotes are from two bands that literally saved my life, from the three songs that always touch my heart.
Someone I know once told me something about tattoos: “Want it for two years before you get it. Make sure it means something. Otherwise, you’ll regret it within three months.” I think that’s true.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Rosemary.
Can you tell us why you chose mainly words and phrases instead of only images for your tats?
Well, I have the ♥LOVE because To Write Love On Her Arms says “instead of harming yourself, write love your yours arms instead” and I really support their organization.
The song quotes I think are just lovely, and while a picture may be worth a thousand words, that’s only true if everyone understands the picture. An image can have a million different interpretations, and whlie that’s true for text as well, it’s far more likely that text will be more understood. The quotes have some embellishments; dots and stars and the like, because I’d get tired of plain text. All of the quotes are in cursive. Also, they’re coloured-
“I am not afraid” is in dark blue, “to keep on living” is in dark purple.
“I am beautiful and flawed” is in sage green, with black and light gray accents.
“The sunrises and the sunsets on the (ocean), hope is in the (rain)” is in dark gray, while the indicated words are cerulean.
“Hope takes my next step forward when I feel like there’s no reason to go on” fades from bright green at the top into yellow at the bottom, and is outlined in black.
So, in that way, they ARE like pictures- they’re visually beautiful, they’re meaningful, and more so than pictures are very poetic.
Thank you, Rosemary. Your descriptions are delicious!
Oooh, delicious! That’s a new one. Thank you!
The tattoo is a mark of the soul. It can act as a window through which we can see inside. Or it can be a shield to protect us from those who cannot see past the surface.
I have CARPE DIEM on my arm. (Seize the Day)
It is funny how people throw around quotes. I wonder sometimes if they’re doing it because they wanna share some wisdom or truth and enlighten others – or if they are trying to seem intelligent and have no real belief in or even understanding of what they’re saying. Sort of like people who claim to adhere to some sort of religious faith but live in a way that’s in direct contradiction of what they preach. I know some people who have quoted things like “Carpe diem” and have been complete procrastinators. Another one is “live for today for tomorrow is never promised”… That one, I find seems to be an excuse for living irresponsibly. I would think that if you tattoed the actual meaning behind “what doesnt kill us makes us stronger”, it would come out something like this…
“I am a foolish and impulsive person and would like to think that I am somewhat stronger and wiser from having lived like an idiot – but I know that I am bound to repeat my old “mistakes” because I have no fortitude or moral compass.”….. I don’t know… what do you think guys?
OH… and Donna…
“As for the cross– no connection to the Latin, just a trendy symbol popularized by Madonna.”
No actually,, I may be wrong but I believe Jesus had something to do with that symbol… way before madonna set it on fire and made a mockery of it.
Surely the people who have these quotes tattooed to themselves attach some sort of personal meaning to them. I quite like the quote “what nourishes me also destroys me” (but I don’t like the idea of a tattoo, too permanent, so I haven’t had it tattooed to me). My eating disorder comes to mind when I think of that quote and it has nothing to do with recycling the past or honoring anyone who’s said it before. And yes, I am a young person.
i agree w/ claudia.cucker,
although i am not that young and I have had my eating disorder for years upon years. i love that quote but i think that if i got it inked on me, everyone would think of angelina jolie, and i’m not her biggest fan. but rosemary, it seems to me as though you do not know entirely what that organization is about. plus, that seems to be quite the busy tattoo.
however, i am inked (and pierced), and i love all my tats and am getting move very soon.
I see I’m very late to the party.
I have three tattoos, two of which people always think are one whole. I guess that is because they are close to each other? I have a Latin phrase on my right inside wrist, that reads, “narro a votum” which translates to, “say a prayer”. The reason I chose this particular phrase was a combination of two factors. The first was, it is a fragment of a line from a song. The song has a lot of meaning to me. It’s is by My Chemical Romance, and the song is, “You know what they do to guys like us in prison” the song is only part of a bigger story. But this “episode” from the album is about not giving in to the surroundings, and doing your own thing. Sticking to your guns. And not forgetting what’s at the end. The second half is the moment I got this tattoo, I was just getting over depression, and found my way through it with religious confermation. So, for me the tattoo, is about not giving up, and moving forward. Like say a prayer cause here I come!!!
Thanks for the fantastic insight into you ink!
i have quod me nutrit me destruit tattooed on my body and it has nothing to do with me trying to give a false sense of intellect or me being pro anorexia. there are a ton of meanings for this quote to me; sometimes the things you own can end up owning you if you engulf yourself in them, sometimes the things you want aren’t necessarily what you need i.e. the abusive relationship i was in for five years. for me, getting this tattoo after that relationship will forever be a reminder of being careful of what and who you surround yourself with and to always, always take care of yourself
Late in the game but I caught this post & was interested in responding to this (as well as reading it). Thank you for posting this!
Like many individuals have commented, most people I know get tattoos or have gotten them as a reminder of something significant in their lives. A few friends or relatives have gotten tattoo’s while drunk but the majority that I know of are planned. However, all the tattoos are symbols or symbolic. None that I know of are quotes.
For example, one twin I know had the number 7 tattooed above her heart. The reason she had this inked on her skin is in memory of her twin sister (who passed away). The deceased twin sister’s favorite number was 7. The twin that survived & several friends (as well as other family members) went together & each had the number 7 inked over their heart so that they would never forget her. It was a team effort (kind of unusual).
In my case, I have the chinese letter for dragon inked onto my left shoulder blade (on my back). Dragons can have a lot of sybolism. The dragon, for me, symbolizes change as dragons are the harbringers of change. Dragonflies can also symbolize change or freedom.
I decided to get the tattoo following a rough time in my life.
To sum it up:
I had a near death experience. I ended up with a rare illness & it changed my life forever. I hit the mid point of my college career (pass or fail point in my degree). I lost my boyfriend of 3 years to my supposed best friend (who at the time claimed to be a lesbian). I had a lot of surprises & barely survived that time in my life.
The tattoo is unfinished but eventually I will have a dragon, head eating tail – around the dragon chinese letter – to symbolize eternity. In the center, the symbol for change & wisdom serves as a constant. It is the reminder that the only constant in life is change. It’s serves to remind me to be prepared & to always keep in mind that no matter how comfortable or set I think something is – it can & will change. Life is constant change. It certainly helps remind me not to take things for granted & hopefully, to live in there here & now.
The tattoo is on my left shoulder blade b/c I am in the education field so I cannot afford for the tattoo to show. It is in a place where I can look over my shoulder & see it in the mirror as it is reflected back at me. It has personal meaning for me obviously but is not necessarily meant to be shared with others. It stays hidden most of the time.
Several friends of mine also have names of their children on their bodies as a way to memorialize their mark on the mother’s body.
I do not know anyone personally who has a quote inked on their body.
Okay so I got the same quote as Angelina tattooed on me before I knew she had it. For me, I saw the quote as having a deeper meaning than “sex, drugs and rock and roll” and all the other self-destructive things. Its open to interpretation- for the majority of us there is something that we’re addicted to, whether it’s as extreme as alcohol or as innocent as attention. As humans we have weaknesses, and some times when we give in to them we become dependent. I’m in no way self destructive, for me my tattoo is a reminder to steer away from dependency on those little things I may get involved or attracted to- and to keep them from consuming me as a person.
I too am late upon seeing this blog, but I felt the need to add my two cents..lol.. I have 6 tattoos but one of them is 6 conji down my spine. They ALL have a meaning to me.
My first one is a blue butterfly on my foot which is in honor of my dad who passed away when i was 20, with some orange and pink daisies which is in honor of my mom who passed away when I was 11. Their initials are also in the wings.
I then got a pink star behind my left ear which symbolizes, to me, the marilyn monroe quote ” we are all stars and deserve to shine” not the exact quote but thats the jist of it. Then I started the one down my spine. It say love, hope, faith, mother, strong willed, beauty,
Then I have a “bracelet” around my wrist which is my kiddos names with a black heart on the inside of my wrist, thats symbolic of how my heart was before I had my kids.
I then got a verse from the bible underneath both of my boobs with a heart in the middle. Its from the song of solomn ” let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for thy love is better than wine” Yes it says all of that my boobs are big..hahaha..
My latest addition which i have added in the last month is the start of a half sleeve. In the middle of my arm is a old school pinup girl, sailor jerry type, shes holding a cake in one hand and a knife in the other. I just started culinary school, then i added a anchor with the words ” stewed, screwed and tattooed”. I also put a skull and cross bones and a sparrow. Eventually it will all be filled in with other old school stuff.
I came across this blog because I had read the quote ” Qoud me nutrit me destruit” I didnt even realize that angelina had it. I most likely will not get it now…lol.. It had a very different meaning to me.. Mine was sexual in nature but I dont really have to go there 🙂 thanks for posting all this I enjoyed reading some of the responses
I think the phrase “Quod me nutrit me destruit” might not be as much a reference to destructive actions (which we temporarily find happiness in), but instead be about transcending an ego-based consciousness. It could be referring to the idea that although you may find “satisfaction” or “happiness” in ego-triggered emotions, such as self-righteousness or driving a fancy car or being “right” in an argument, these feelings are nevertheless false and temporary. And since they are egoically based, they will eventually destroy you as your ego is a destructive entity.
At least, that’s my take on it. =)
What that saying means is that the things we care about the most have the greatest potential to harm us almost like a loved one that breaks your heart
I have always loved tattoos, I really don’t know the reason, it’s just one of those things… I don’t have one, I think I will get one for my brother, but I still havent found the right design, plus I’m just 18 and my mom would get a heart attack if she saw her little girl get a tattoo.
I think quotes are interesting as tattos, as long as you really feel connected to the phrase, and that means you have to really understand it, which I don’t think usually happens with this kind of phrases, cause they are usually out of any context and are used just translated and that doesnt show its whole meaning.
‘Quod me nutrit me destruit’ is a latin phrase, yes, however people seem to always read into things and make them what they are not.
The phrase is about Anorexia. It is not a ‘new age’ disorder, it is a very ancient disorder and this quote stems from there.
Some people in this time would starve themselves just like today only the reasons were different. People did it to show ‘long suffering’ as the bible mentions (though it did not say to starve yourself!), they did it as a sacrifice, and also did it to show restraint, which was very sought after in women.
The issue was that if you starved yourself for long enough you would begin to see food as an enemy and find it almost impossible to change that thought as everything would then ride on it. You will then begin to feel that ‘Quod me nutrit, me Destruit’ (what nourishes me, destroys me). This would normally lead to their eventual death.
I myself am not tatted, as of yet, but if I were, it would be of a henna design I got a couple years ago at a Renaiisance festival. I’m going somewhere serious and non-naive with this, I promise. It was the Arabic symbol/word for god, surrounded by a pretty firework-like design, with one of the lines trailing off into dots down one of my fingers. I loved the thing to death, and it actually meant alot to me because it took ages for me to decide what to do. I was frustrated however at the relatively massive amounts of olive oil I had to put on it to take care of it…very sticky.. So that is what I would have again, in the same place. I would also have a quote from my youth director at my (Methodist) church when I was a hs freshman (not exact): “follow god your own way, with your own method.” It made a really big impact on me and my religious viewpoint. It would probably be an outline kind of font in black, next to a hill with three crosses, which is where I had a very personal religious experience 🙂
Thank you for sharing your interesting reflection, Andrew. What meant a lot to you, now means something to the rest of us.
I learnt my quote in the army:
“Don’t ask for lighter burdens, ask for stronger shoulders”
Didn’t tattooed ir, yet.. haha
I love tattoos. I think it is a great way to mark benchmarks in one’s life. All of mine have special meanings and even though I don’t always share the meaning with others, I know what they are. One of them represents different bands (without saying their names) that consumed my teenage years and every time I look at it I smile because I remember what that stage of my life brought to me. Life long friends, the experiences, the memories. Another is the word “courage” spelt out in awareness ribbons in different colors that represents things that I had to overcome. My tattoos are for me, not others, that’s why they all are hidden (also, I am fully aware that for career purposes it is better to not have them).
I remember watching an episode of Miami Ink where there was an older women getting her first tattoo. Her reason to get one (simply her initials) was for that in for any reason they would be able to infinity her body. (Hurricane, tornado, murder… ect). I love her way of thinking. It makes us individuals. In the other view, a coworker of mine pointed out how he would never want one because it would make him easier to be identified in the cases of if he had ever committed a crime. So the question is.. shouldn’t we really be more scared of those without tattoos then those with them? Just a thought to ponder on.
As for the quote “Quod Me Nutrit, Me Destruit”… I have been wanting this one for years and now I feel that this is the perfect timing for me to get it. I look at the quote, “What Nourishes me, Destroys me” as nourishes meaning encourages/motivates/consumes. Not looking at it as sex and drugs but the things you think are good like work, money and food. I look at it is a reminder that you should not get so consumed with something because it could destroy you when you build your life consumed on a particular thing. For example, the workaholic dad; the single women caught up in her career… Things that may not physically destroy the person but may still destroy other aspects of the persons life.
I love the phrase “Quod Me Nutrit, Me Destruit”. Contrary to popular belief it is NOT about anorexia, it was just borrowed by that community as a motto for anorexics and recovering anorexics. The origin is MUCH earlier than that, back in the 1500s as the motto of playwright Christopher Marlowe (Shakespeare’s contemporary). It was an idea that was reflected in most of his plays which had Tragic heros/villains whose downfalls were excessive consumption of what they loved, somewhat like an addiction. For example, in Dr. Faustas, the main character is “nourished” by knowledge, yet his desire to seek out the most powerful knowledge of all, dark magic, results in him being dragged to hell in the end. So you see, it is anything but meaningless. It is applicable to anyone really as everyone has their vices. I’ve considered getting it inked on me, but not just because of the meaning, also as an homage to Marlowe who I find brilliant.
suckjobjoe: “ignorant hoards” = irony so thick you can cut it with a knife.
I personally have two tattoos – one is a tribal hawk flying into the sun, and it’s located between my shoulderblades (a hidden location that is rarely visible). It’s a tattoo I designed myself (I’m an artist) and I designed it when I was 17, but waited until I was 21 to have it done. Plenty of reflection, I’d say. I chose a hawk and the sun symbolically, as I’ve always felt a special closeness to hawks and consider them to be my “totem animal”, for lack of a less New Agey term. I’m also a Leo, an astrological sign ruled by the sun.
The other tattoo I have is Latin, and I had it done yesterday. It is placed across my heart (another hidden location) and reads AUDACES FORTUNA IUVAT; it translates to “Fortune favors the bold”. I chose that phrase for many reasons. It’s originally from Virgil’s Aeneid, and I’m a scholar of classical literature. It’s also been attributed to Alexander the Great, and I admire his accomplishments – the quote reminds me of him. Finally, every major success I have had in my life has come in the aftermath of great personal risk, whereas my biggest failings have inevitably been the result of passivity and indecision. I got the tattoo to remind myself to aspire to greatness in all things, even if those aspirations involve leaving my comfort zones (which as a self-described creature of habit, I am particularly loathe to do).
The thing I love most about my tattoos is that they help me evaluate others. I am glad that people who find them insufferably distasteful avoid me because of them, as I would quite rather avoid those who use such a superficial means to evaluate others. To put it another way, if you are someone who is so shallow that you are unable to do anything but “judge a book by its cover”, we’re not likely to get along anyway.
I have this quote tattood on me, and it is beacause I am an amatur Christopeher Marlowe scholar, it is painted on the corner of his portrait
ok,i can’t read through all these, but the meaning behind this tattoo of hers is easy ‘what nourishes me, destroys me’ …it’s about love, as in true love, deep, passionate love. when you are in it and it is beyond amazing it nourishes you, if you lose it, it destroys you. it’s both simple and one of my favorite quotes of all time
one quote i want tattooed on me but haven’t gotten yet is from walt whitman’s poem ‘song of myself’: “do i contradict myself?
very well then i contradict myself,
(i am large, i contain multitudes)”
Thanks for sharing the details of your wanted ink! Love the idea!
Usually when you see a big, dense black tat like that it’s there to cover up an earlier tattoo that turned out to be a bad idea, Angelina Jolie’s cross probably covers the name of an ex-lover.