It’s all Greek to me…

When you can’t understand something, you might say that it’s all Greek to you. This expression comes the Medieval Latin phrase Graecum est; non potest legi (It is Greek; it cannot be read). Medieval scribes, who weren’t familiar with Greek, apparently wrote this phrase next to any text they came across in that language.

Some other languages compare incomprehensible things to Greek, for example Norwegians say Det er helt gresk for meg (it’s totally Greek for me); speakers of Farsi (Persian) say that they don’t understand Greek (yunaani nemifahmam); Portuguese speakers say É grego para mim (It’s Greek to me) or É chinês para mim (It’s Chinese to me), and Swedish speakers say Det är rena grekiskan (It is pure Greek).

In other languages incomprehensible things are compared to other languages, such as Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic or Latin, or to Spanish villages or Chinese cities. In Chinese such things said to be like ‘heavenly script’ (gēn tiānshū yíyàng).

Here are a few examples:

  • Croatian: To mi je špansko selo (It’s a Spanish village to me)
  • Danish: Dat is Latijn voor mij (That’s Latin for me)
  • Finnish: Täyttä hepreaa (It’s all Hebrew to me)
  • French: C’est du chinois (It’s Chinese)
  • Greek : Εἶναι ἀλαμπουρνέζικα [Íne alabournézika] – It’s Arabic
  • Lithuanian : Tai man kaip kinų kalba (It’s all Chinese to me)
  • Russian: китайская грамота (It’s Chinese writing)
  • Turkish: olaya fransız kaldım (I am French to the conversation/chat)

You can find more examples here.