The Polynesians, who gave the world tattooing, find the practice globally popular today. The Marquesans sport their tattoos with pride.
The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian word tatau. Capt. James Cook on his South Seas voyages in the 1770s found the Polynesians were prouder of their tattoos than their clothes. Chiefs and warriors were so covered with tattoos that they looked blue from a distance. Both sexes were tattooed, but it was mainly a male practice.
Cook’s crew brought the art form back to Europe. Later, sailors spread it around the world.
Originally, a young Marquesan could not be considered mature enough to marry unless he was tattooed. Women giggled at those softies without them.
— Harvey Hagman