Using "wear a tattoo" and other unusual expressions

Hello everyone,

as some of you might noticed during the judging period in the IFComp’08 there were some reviews in which people complained that I used expressions such as “wear a tattoo” and “cartridge” in my entry “Project Delta: The Course”.

I’ve made a research on these expressions recently, because I wanted to find out whether they are wrong or not and if I should fix them in my final release. And I’ve found this via google today:

It’s a short article from 2007 written by BBC News. It’s about tattoos, but that’s not the point here. What is interesting is that BBC uses the same expression “wear a tattoo”. Quote: “Footballer David Beckham and singer Amy Winehouse are just two celebrities that wear tattoos, have they influenced your decision to wear them?” The article’s headline is even called “Why wear a tattoo?”.

And about the cartridge-thing… this was actually an expression which I researched before I had written the text for my tutorial version of Project Delta, because as you may noticed all the weapon names and descriptions in Project Delta are based on real firearms, such as the Beretta 92FS and its 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge.


I always knew that it’s usually called a “clip” and not a “cartridge”. I’m not only a fan of interactive fiction, but also a big fan of first-person shooters, you know. So I’m familiar with that, because in FPS games they always call it “clip”. But I like the word cartridge. It’s actually the technical term for clip which is used by weapons manufacturers. You can read it in the wikipedia-link I’ve just posted above.

Now to cut a long story short. I don’t want to get into any arguments with reviewers on this one or sound like a smartass, but I have to ask this…

If “wear a tattoo” is a wrong expression in your opinion then why BBC uses it? Did BBC make a mistake? Is it slang maybe? Or can it be that this expression just appears unusual to some of you, because you simply haven’t heard of it before? Same with “cartridge”.

And much more important why I really bring this topic up is a general question… uhm, should authors use expressions like that or should they avoid them?

I mean considering the weapon names and stuff like this: I always liked technical terms to describe technology, especially in a text adventure which is about Area 51. I think this is just the right way, but if you have a different view on that then share it with me.


I don’t know about the tattoo thing, but cartridge is not the same thing as clip: a cartridge is the shell of a single bullet and a clip is where you have the ammunition. See and

There’s always a chance that the reviewer has not heard the expressions before or they’re from a region where language is used differently (English varies quite a lot geographically!) so I would take the advice, research it as you have done, and keep in mind that the reviewer might be mistaken as well (and also that I might be mistaken too). You could also always email the reviewer and ask why they felt the expressions were off.

Thanks for sorting that out.

I had a feeling that the “cartridge” expression was a mistake of mine, but I wanted to have this confirmed. So yes, cartridge is the shell of a single bullet only and not of all bullets. That was my confusion when reading that wikipedia article. I guess that’s the disadvantage when using technical terms in text adventures and games in general. One has to carefully research them and make sure that one doesn’t confuse them him-/herself. Sometimes these things happen unintentionally - as in this case.

Yeah, you know, I’m writing IF in english and german. English can really be a problem, because you have to understand the difference between american and british english. For example, the room where the weapons were stored I called Armory. I looked it up in an online dictionary. It’s american english. In british english, however, it is called the Weaponry.

I suppose I just have to decide in which english - american or british - I want to write. And then I have to add a note in my game blurb or in the game itself about which style of english my game uses.

In this particular case I think it makes sense sticking to american english. Simply because Area 51 is located in USA, Nevada. That should fit. I could ofcourse release a special version of my game using british english, but I don’t know if this is really necessary since both - american and british people - understand the language anyway, don’t they? :slight_smile:

Actually, as a Brit I would expect to see the word ‘Armoury’ rather than ‘Armory’ or ‘Weaponry’. ‘Weaponry’ is not a term I’ve ever heard to describe a storage room for weapons, but it might be because of the prevalence of the American version (kind of like the whole gaol/jail thing).

Hi EK,

I’m not familiar with your game or the debate surrounding it, but I thought I’d chime in anyway.

If you’re using a potentially odd phrase like “wear a tattoo” in the descriptions (I.E. You’re in the tattoo parlor. There’s a woman here. She wears a butterfly tattoo.), then I think that’s fine, whether the user is familiar with the phrase or not. If it’s so indecipherable to the user (and anyway, it’s not), they’re welcome to look it up. That’s what you do when you read fiction. You’re listening to the voice of the author.

On the other hand if you’re asking for the phrase from the user, I might be inclined to use as many synonyms for it as possible (wear a tattoo, have a tattoo… I dunno, sport a tattoo?), to make sure all users can figure out what to say. Even if it isn’t wrong, it isn’t fair if they can’t move forward in the game over an inability to guess the right phrasing. But that phrase doesn’t sound like an imperative anyway so maybe that isn’t what you were doing.

Incidentally, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone say “wear a tattoo”, but I also don’t think it sounds all that weird.

I’m American and I notice a lot of these games are written in British English. Most of the phrases between the two dialects are the same, many of the phrases that aren’t the same are phrases I’m aware of and understand, and if I’m not aware then I look it up. For example, when I first played Christminster the game mentioned a “mog”, which I wasn’t familiar with and looked up. It became obvious later that the mog was a cat, but it didn’t hurt me none to look it up.

Not in any dictionary that I’ve looked in.

Here you go:

It’s correct what revgiblet wrote though. Armory is american and Armoury is british writing. And according to the word Arsenal is a synonym for Armory, as you can read here (scroll the page down).

Weaponry also means “Waffenarsenal” (“weapons arsenal”, literally translated) in german. The reviewer who said it should have been called “Weaponry” instead of “Armory” had probably misunderstood what I was refering to in my adventure when my NPC Lt. Walker said:

“This is the Armory. On the table in front of you is a pistol. Take it!”

The reviewer probably thought that Walker was refering to the pistol itself and not to the storage room in general, as it was intended when I wrote the text.

In that case the sentence should have been:

“This is the Weaponry. On the table in front of you is a pistol. Take it!”

In conclusion, “Armory/Armoury” refers to the weapons storage room only and “Weaponry” refers to the weapons themselves as a whole (arsenal). Weaponry seems to be a synonym for Arsenal too. In other words, you could say “The weaponry is stored inside the armory.” and it had the same meaning as “All weapons are inside the storage room.” (correct me if I’m wrong).

It’s a bit confusing, but I think I have figured it out now. :wink:

Yes, correct. ‘Weaponry’ is not the same thing as ‘Armory’ (or ‘Armoury’), neither in British nor American English. Weaponry refers to the weapons themselves, Armory is the place you keep them in.