It's all Greek to me

  • janecito said:
    Looks like we've got a Czech-(Slovak-)Slovenian pact going here. :)Isn't there also a Spanish expression "No entiendo ni jota." meaning (approximately) the same. To shift from nationalities to alphabet. :)
    Es cierto también decimos "No entiendo ni jota", "Por que no me hablas en Cristiano"
     

    leesboek

    New Member
    1. Name of country: The Netherlands

    2. Dat is Chinees voor mij: That is Chinese to me

    3. I think "Chinese" is chosen because we don't understand the language at all, we don't recognise any words, so it seems very difficult to us. :)

     

    Qcumber

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The French used to say: Pour moi, c'est de l'hébreu. "For me, it's Hebrew."
    Pour moi, c'est du chinois. "For me, it's Chinese." seems to have replaced it.
    I also heard once: Pour moi, c'est du javanais. "For me, it's Javanese."
     

    PuffyEagle33

    New Member
    USA
    English, Chinese, USA
    hihi! i'm new here. I found this site while searching for the Chinese translation of "It's Greek to me" for my spanish class! haha! it's so funny that so many other languages use Chinese when they don't understand something! xD

    cameo~ is the phrase "it's spanish to me" is realli used in taiwan? lol. so it would be 跟西班牙語一樣? andd, is the phrase 跟天書一樣 (like a heavenly script/book) used a lot?

    thanks!
     

    Chazzwozzer

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    I still don't get why we sometimes find things French to us in Turkish. We've been always influneced by French culture and the language, so why French? I mean, why not a language and culture we're not very familiar with, like Japanese?
     

    ameana7

    Senior Member
    Turkey, Turkish
    ^We also say " If I understand, I become Arab" when we cannot understand the subject. It is strange because we'd been influenced by them too especially in old times.
     

    Chazzwozzer

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    ^Hmmm...

    I've just checked TDK's dictionary and:
    Fransız kalmak
    Arap olayım

    It's weird that TDK only accepts "Arap olayım" usage as, in humorus way, to make believe somebody, like a swear to show how serious he is. Example: "If I'm lying, let me turn into an Arab!" Of course, it's not a very good idiom, rather an insulting.

    However, Fransız kalmak is used as in: It's all Greek to me.

    Need to search more on this.
     

    Ilmo

    Member Emeritus
    It is Greek to me means that the person speaking does not understand a bit of what he/she hears or reads.
    Do you use the corresponding saying in you mother tongue?

    In Finnish we say: Se on minulle hepreaa, It is Hebrew to me
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    In French: C'est du chinois (it's Chinese) or C'est du charabia.

    - and I've just discovered in the dictionary that "charabia" was the name of a local dialect in Auvergne (a region of France), and was then used pejoratively to mean an incomprehensible language. I'm only aware of the latter meaning now - without it raising any pejorative connotation.
     

    Marga H

    Senior Member
    Poland,Polish
    In Polish we say: Być na tureckim kazaniu = to be at a turkish sermon ( means do not understand anything )
    but also there is the expresion : Nie udawaj Greka! = Don't play the Greek! ( means "don't pretend that you don't understand me!
    So Turkish and Greek seem to be the most difficult languages for Polish people :) .
     

    gigi1

    Member
    Greek Greece
    ^Maybe because when it is not convenient for us (and we do know the language) ,we make foreigners believe we don't understand what they are saying???? ;)
     

    samanthalee

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    yeah, we say in Greece "it's all Chinese to me", since Chinese is the most difficult language in the world and Greek the second most difficult!
    I had always wondered what's the Greek equivalence of "It's all Greek to me"... To think it is Chinese....:D

    In Mandarin, when someone says something alien, the following exchange may occur.
    "Excuse me, please speak Chinese." [请讲中文。]
    "I am speaking Chinese." [我在说中文啊。]
    "Really? It sounds foreign to me." [是吗?听起来怎么像外国话?]
     

    Vagabond

    Senior Member
    What is It's Greek to me in other languages? I am especially interested in what the Greeks say!..
    Haha. Yeah, it is too bad we can't use that line, as something "Greek to me" would be something I could understand perfectly well.

    We say "It's Chinese to me", roughly, many ways to say it:
    Αυτά είναι κινέζικα (afta ine kinezika) = that's Chinese
    Κινέζικα μου ακούγονται (kinezika mou akougontai) = sounds Chinese to me
    etc.

    Basically the whole concept is that something you don't understand sounds Chinese to you, rephrased in many ways, and the choice of the language is of course due to the fact that Chinese is nothing like Greek and (just like Greek) looks and sounds strange to anyone who doesn't speak it.
     

    Stephanus

    New Member
    Sweden English
    Until eighty or so years ago Greek was included in a traditional (mainly male!) upper-class British education, so it's rather surprising that we have that expression in English. I imagine it has some connection with the pre-Renaissance attitude to Greek. Mediaeval monks sometimes had to copy odd Greek words and expressions in the middle of a Latin text, but if they did they could add in the margin "Graeca sunt, non leguntur" - "it's Greek, it doesn't get read".
     

    jonquiliser

    Senior Member
    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    Isn't there also a Spanish expression "No entiendo ni jota." meaning (approximately) the same. To shift from nationalities to alphabet. :)
    You can say that in Swedish as well; "jag begriper inte ett jota!" And in addition to "rena grekiskan" that someone already mentioned, you could say "rotvälskan", "rena rotvälskan" or, with more emphasis, "rena rama rotvälskan!" Rotvälska is sort of "gibberish"; unintelligible, often because it is such a messy mixture of languages or has such poor grammar etc.
     

    doman

    Member
    Vietnam, Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
    When somebody talked a wierd thing, you can say it in Vietnamese:

    "Tôi nghe như vịt nghe sấm ấy!",
    meaning you understood nothing, like a duck listens the Thunder.
    or "Nghe như chuyện trên sao Hỏa !",
    means "It sounds as in the Mars to me".
     

    deine

    Senior Member
    Lithuania - lithuanian
    I can't think of any equivalent of "it's all Greek to me." in Lithuanian.

    We don't refer to any language (or maybe it could be Arabic)

    If we don't understand we say- Kalba paukščių kalba, that means -Talking like a bird.
    I cannot think something also, just this.
     

    BlueWolf

    Senior Member
    Italian
    In Italian we don't use just Arabic, but Ostrogoth too. :D

    Non mi sembra di parlare ostrogoto... (typical sentence from an irritated teacher :rolleyes:)

    And with letters, we say "non capirci un'acca di qualcosa", literaly "not to understand a h about something", since h is the only silent letter in Italian.
     

    Krümelmonster

    Senior Member
    Germany, german
    German:

    Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof. = It's [all] Greek to me.

    Literally: "I understand only 'train-staion' "

    NO idea where that came from, but I've seen it and heard it. :)
    I know this post is rather old but I didn't find anyone answering it before, so I hope this is no double post:

    The expression about the train-station originates in the WWII... when the war was almost lost, the soldiers didn't listen any more to their leaders who wanted to encourage them to go on fighting. They "only understood train-station" because this was a symbol for them of getting home, so they just understood "go home"...
     

    Phillr

    New Member
    Sweden, Swedish
    In Sweden we have the expression:

    Det är rena grekiskan för mig.

    Word-for-word it translates to something like:

    It's pure Greek to me.
     

    mcibor

    Senior Member
    In Polish we say: Być na tureckim kazaniu = to be at a turkish sermon ( means do not understand anything )
    but also there is the expresion : Nie udawaj Greka! = Don't play the Greek! ( means "don't pretend that you don't understand me!
    So Turkish and Greek seem to be the most difficult languages for Polish people :) .
    Polish:
    There is also:
    To dla mnie chińszczyzna = It's Chinese to me, but it's refered to sth difficult while learning, not to the understanding.
    When you want to say, that you don't understand, and again the context is narrowed to plot / situation you could say
    To jest czeski film = It's a Czech film.

    I thought there was some more relation to Greek through letter jota, but
    ni joty means nothing at all, so you could say:
    Nie rozumiem ni joty = I don't understand at all, but you can use that phrase to beer as well:
    W lodówce nie ma ni joty piwa - there is no beer (at all) in the fridge
    So it's all based on context ;)

    Why? do you ask:
    Chinese, because it seems very difficult to learn
    Czech film has an exact meaning: nobody knows anything.
    From my memory I can say, this saying appeared in Poland around 70s due to the Czech productions. I don't know exactly which film was most influencial, but it came into live speach, and survived to modern times.

    Regards
    Michał
     

    Metabolix

    New Member
    Finland; Finnish
    In Finnish, "se on täyttä hepreaa." This translates quite well as "It's all Hebrew." The word Hebrew can also be used itself, it's not tied to the 'complete' idiom. I might even say that it's the only word that really matters.
     

    Lingvisten

    Senior Member
    Denmark
    1. I'm from Denmark
    2. we don't have any standar frase for that, but one could might say: "det er det rene kaudervælsk" (it's all kaudervælsk), kaudervælsk is a language, that comes from a part of Switzerland, and is taken from German "Kauderwelsch". One could also say: "det er det rene volapyk" (it's all volapük). If you don't know anything about a subject you could say: "det er en by i Rusland" (its a city in Russia).
     

    Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    In Arabic we say يتكلم الهندية "he is speaking Hindi" to refer to someone that is saying something you do not understand at all. However, if you understand the words but what the person is saying is illogical or not understandable, one would say that هذه سفسطائية "this is Sophism", refering to the ancient greek philosophy.

    If everybody knows what a person is saying except you, you would be مثل الأطرش بالزفة "like a deaf person in a zaffa" zaffa = part of the wedding celebration where everyone sings very loudly and there is a lot of music, a deaf person would see everyone shouting and jumping but he can't hear a word so he doesn't know what's going on.

    When you want to say, that you don't understand, and again the context is narrowed to plot / situation you could say
    To jest czeski film = It's a Czech film.
    Interestingly, in Arabic we have the expression فلم هندي "it's a Hindi film", but it does not mean that you don't know what's going on; it means that what is happening is unbelievable, long and/or with a lot of unlikely incidents. We also have the expression فلم امريكي "American film" to refer to a close-miss that got your heart pumping like a drum and 'almost' caused a tragedy.
     

    jana.bo99

    Senior Member
    Cro, Slo
    Croatian: To je za me Špansko selo! (if we don't know, what is going about, we say so).

    German: Spanische Doerfer! (when I was in Germany, we used to say so)
    Das sind Spanische Doerfer fuer mich!
     

    kusurija

    Senior Member
    Lithuania Czech
    Czech: we sometimes say:
    To je nějaká zulukafrenština;
    or with misspelling :D To je nějaká zkufularenština!
    which refers to Zulu French! I'm curious about that, if many Czech at all had heard that language...
    Meanig: This is/must be somewhat in Zulu French!
    Used if someone not clearly explains his intentions or You don't understand his intentions at all.
    Why used? I have no idea why...

    In Lithuania there is also sometimes reffered "Czech film" as mentioned mcibor ,
    but I thing that it came from Poland...
     

    Oluc (Yvon)

    Banned
    Français, English
    We also use the term "chinoiserie" in French.
    Does any other language use "chinese" in its substantive form to refer to something very complicated that one cannot comprehend?
     

    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    what’s the equivalent and the English translation of “it’s all Greek to me” in your mother tongue? This could evolve into a nice exercise in geography.
    Hello Jana,

    I take you are looking for idioms that means something incomprehensible with a foreign language metaphor. Here is the Japanese one;
    唐人の寝言
    tōjin-no negoto
    where tōjin is an archaism for "Westerners" (the expression itself is somewhat dated) and negoto is sleep-talk (sleep-talk of a foreigner).

    The idea is that the languages of Westerners are incomprehensible already and what they speak while asleep is all the more so. :p The expression was invented in Nagasaki, which was virtually the only port which was open to the Westerners until the late 19th century.
     

    KaRiNe_Fr

    Senior Member
    Français, French - France
    We also use the term "chinoiserie" in French.
    Does any other language use "chinese" in its substantive form to refer to something very complicated that one cannot comprehend?
    In France we don't say « chinoiserie » (which has another pejorative meaning, in its plural form) but « c'est du chinois » (it's chinese to me), as already said by Gève here. In this thread, I remember it's also used in Dutch, you can use the « search this thread » function to find it. ;)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    In Portuguese there is the word chinesice, but it's used for complicated habits or capricious rules.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Here is the Japanese one;
    [...]
    t?jin-no negoto
    where t?jin is an archaism for "Westerners" (the expression itself is somewhat dated) and negoto is sleep-talk (sleep-talk of a foreigner).

    The idea is that the languages of Westerners are incomprehensible already and what they speak while asleep is all the more so.
    What a lovely image! :cool:
     

    2xMcK

    New Member
    Spanish, Spain.
    Nice thread, this is funny. :)

    The most common phrase to show that feeling in Spain is "Don't speak chinese", as previously said. I think it is also common to use russian language in the same manner, but we don't use greek here.
     

    franz rod

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    My first post here is going to be kind of a nerdy one, but I find this discussion very interesting! As far as I know the phrase originated in English from the quill of William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. The earliest instance I know of which survives in print is the First Folio of 1623, but the play was of course written several years earlier (you know, during Shakespeare's lifetime!)
    No.
    It came from the impossibility for the medieval copyist to understand text in Greek

    yeah, we say in Greece "it's all Chinese to me", since Chinese is the most difficult language in the world and Greek the second most difficult!
    The difficoult in Chinese is not the language (the grammar is simple) but the scripture which didn't develop in more "available" one. Greek isn't very dificoult.
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    That's a long (and enduring) thread, that goes back more than 3 years ...
    Let me put my grain of salt in it (though I confess I did not read ALL the posts ... I may repeat what has been already said ...).
    Invoking a language that appears unintelligible to express something difficult to understand is common in most languages.
    For Europeans, Chinese, Hebrew, Greek and Arabic represent the epitome of what cannot be understood (or deciphered).
    French will then say : C'est du chinois/de l'hébreu/du grec/de l'arabe pour moi, as an Englishman will equally say : it's all Chinese/Hebrew/Greek/Arabic to me.
    The choice of languages might vary, though these are quite representative of "difficult" languages.
    But then, it's all quite subjective. Hindi, Russian, Aztec, Mongolian, Korean, Basque, Welsh, Finnish and countless other idioms may present some equally unsurmountable difficulties to justify being used as a criterion for "mystery".
     
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