Claim: The exotic foreign medallion worn so proudly by a society matron bears an embarrassing inscription identifying her as a prostitute.
Example: [Cerf, 1952]
Origins: This tale an oldie but goodie: a legend that pokes fun at grande dames on a couple of different levels. No matter who tells this story, it's always stressed that the medallion wearer is a society woman: an unnamed senator's or bishop's wife, or a fictitious grande dame with a drippingly snobbish name like
More than being just another run-of-the-mill "black eye for the Brahmins" tale, it's an also "ugly American" fable. Liking the medallion solely for its appearance, the society dame grabs it without first learning anything of the culture behind it. She ends up self-labeled as a Shanghai prostitute because her lack of respect for traditions and meanings that aren't 100% American doesn't leave room for her to consider that the pretty bauble could serve any purpose other than as a decorative piece of jewelry.
A similar story is told about a sweater:
"Although inexpensive, this dish is tasty."
There is supposedly at least one tattoo studio in the continental U.S. which has, amongst all the stock designs on the walls, a Chinese rendering of the phrase "I'm so stupid that I don't know what this means." The person who mentioned tidbit this was American-Chinese and asked the tattooist why this was up on the wall. The tattooist replied that it was there to catch idiots who just picked designs that they thought looked cool, and if someone was stupid enough to get a phrase which they didn't understand tattooed on their body, he'd do it. Apparently he'd already put the design on several people,
Barbara "(tat)too stupid to live" Mikkelson
Last updated: 27 April 2014
Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Baby Train. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993. ISBN 0-393-31208-9 (p. 224). Cerf, Bennett. Good for a Laugh. Garden City: Hanover House, 1952 (pp. 203-204). Elgart, J.M. Still More Over Sexteen. New York: Grayson Publishing, 1954 (p. 78).