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Linguaholic

Is it Greek to you?


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When somebody reads or hears something in an unknown language, it's common to say it's Greek to them. But did you ever wonder what the Greek say when they hear an unknown language?

Or do you say something else instead? For example, in Dutch, we say an unknown language is Chinese to us and an Italian speaker might say it's Arabic.

Today I found this useful diagram which shows exactly who thinks what language an unknown language is, see it [here].

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wow, that's a very interesting thread! I have been asking myself this question too ! In Switzerland, if we don't understand the things we are studying or looking at, we also say it looks Chinese to us and sometimes we say it looks Spanish to us.

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Well, it's never Greek to me because my father was Greek and I know when someone talks in Greek or not  :laugh:

However when using English is common to say "it's Greek to me" but when you talk in Spanish it's more commonly to say "it's Chinese to me."

And certainly, I don't understand a word of Chinese and could not identify it from Japanese or Korean, as in example.

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Thank you so much for the link to such an interesting chart and article.  As an English speaker I have used the phrase very often and never thought about its origins or what other languages would say in the same situation.  If is so fascinating the topics that come up here.  I have already shared this with several friends who I know will also enjoy this. 

That was a great contribution.  You made me think and now I have even more trivia to impress (or bore) my friends with at parties.  I still find it fascinating to learn every single day.

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This is a great thread. Although I have never really been accustomed to hearing something like this, it is still great to see the similarities of both. Usually if I don't know a language I would say it is foreign to me or something like that, I have never heard Greek to you though lol.

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Wow, living on the west coast of North America I haven't heard any of these (even the English form of it). It's interesting how it's an idiom that is different in every language but is such a universally common expression. The chart is very cool.

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In Portugal we do say "sounds/looks chinese to me" when confronted with something we don't understand (doesn't have to be necessarily language-related). However, we also have an idiom, "vi-me grego" (literally, "I found myself Greek") when involved in some kind of more or less difficult situation. It could be translated perhaps as "I found it hard" or "I could hardly" (as in "Vi-me grego para chegar a tempo por causa do trânsito" to "I found it hard to be on time because of traffic"), but it kind of loses something in the translation. I have no idea of the origin of the idiom, though.

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