The Moment You Realize Your Tattoo Doesn’t Mean What You Thought

Fanis Gekas

Tattoos — especially those depicting Kanji characters — have become some of the most talked about body art failures in Asia during the 2014 World Cup.

It takes a global event on a World-Cup scale, to realize how foreign cultures really are and how foreigners perceive them. A common example of cultural misunderstandings are the non-Asian players’ tattoos of Kanji that use to convey a message, mostly to themselves – since most of the time only they know what the Kanjis mean.

However, for Greek player TheofanisFanisGekas who played in the World Cup Greece vs Japan match, his Kanji tattoo was seen by millions of Japanese fans and other Kanji experts who started reading it.

Gekas‘ right arm tattoo was scrutinized by thousands in social media who were trying to understand what it means, but no-one seems to be able to give it an actual “Kanji” meaning. Sure, Kanji’s can be open to interpretation, but if the Asians can’t even figure it out, then there’s got to be a serious problem.

Japanese and Chinese media have talked extensively about Gekas‘ arm tattoo, labeling it as unfortunate, since they believe he probably didn’t quite mean to convey the message that it does.

“We’ve seen it before – misinformed fans who had tattoos such as ‘Chicken Noodle Soup’ or ‘casket maker’ in exotic scrawl,” writes the Asian news website Rocketnews.

Most criticized, is the strange use of 寒冷殺人拳, most closely translated as “Cold Killer Fist.” The first two kanji (寒冷) definitely mean “cold,” but in the temperature sense, like “a cold climate” or “frigid air,” not in a heartless, “murder your mother” sort-of way.

According to Rocket News the last character may be a little different than Japanese fans are claiming, “though the change fails to change the unusual nature of the words.”

“It appears the last Kanji is actually 魔 and not 拳. Here, 魔 can mean “demon” or “devil” but also gives the connotation of someone who habitually performs a negative act, in this case, killing. Put it together with the previous two kanji and you get something like, but not quite, serial killer.”

Other Japanese sources report that Gekas meant to scribe “cold killer” on his right arm, but he most likely wanted it to read “cold-blooded killer,” a nickname given to him by Greek soccer fans for his impressive scoring ability.

The website WorldofChinese.com reports that Gekas‘ tattoo 寒冷 杀人魔 means cold killing monster and questions “was this actually even a mistake?”

Frings Tattoo Fail
German footballer Torsten Frings has “dragon snake fortune brave sheep” tattooed on his arm according to TheWorldOfChinese.com

“It could have been way worse with 龙蛇吉勇羊 (dragon snake fortune brave sheep) tattooed on his arm like German footballer Torsten Frings, or even the characters 酸甜鸭子7.99欧元 (sweet and sour duck 7.99 euro) that is said to be tattooed on Frings’ back,” notes the website.

Beware of tattoos that you don’t fully understand, cause you could be stuck with wanna-be-cool new body art, or worse, be labeled by what it means too!

Have you (or someone you know) ever got a tattoo only to later realize that its meaning is different from the one that you meant it to be? Let us know in the comments…


  • Don’t read the language, don’t get the tattoo. Simple!