"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."
Friday, 12 June 2009
It's All Greek to Me
In English we often use the phrase its 'Double Dutch' or 'It's all Greek to me' to indicate that something is incomprehensible or beyond one's ability to understand. The Romans also described things as being Greek - "Graecum est; non legitur" ("It is Greek, so it cannot be read") - presumably because the different alphabet exacerbated the difficulty of understanding it. Whilst referring to Greek was not especially derogatory the phrase Double Dutch was and this attack on the Dutch is more recent. It probably stems from the 17th century when the two countries were forever at each other's throats as they vied for supremacy at sea and to carve out Empires from foreign lands. .
But what do the Greeks and Dutch say? They say 'It's Chinese to me'. The Croatians and Czecks say it's Spanish. The Italians refer to it as Arabic, Aramaic or Ostrogoth. The Romanians call it Turkish and the Turks call it French. The Mandarin Chinese are one of the few peoples who don't refer to another language - they say it's like the Book from Heaven (referring to an unknown writing system); like the tongues of birds, or the language of Mars. But my favourite is the expression of the Cantonese Chinese who describe English as sounding like chicken intestines!
My daughter Helen commented in November 2008 in her Blog that she was now keeping a notebook of new words that she came across during her reading. "This week I bought a lovely little leather bound book to write new words in as I read them . I've added a few from "1984", but my favourite has to be persiflage (from the French persifler) which means banter." I later discovered that my older daughter, Bryony, also kept a similar notebook.
This inspired me to create a Word blog. This will include both new words, favourite words and the origins of phrases that we commonly use. A definition and some comment, perhaps even a relevant quotation, will acompany the word or phrase.
“I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me.” - Winnie the Pooh
Thanks for stopping by! Would you like a cup of tea or coffee? And please, sit for a spell. If you enjoy my posts, please feel free to follow me or subscribe to my blog. This is a word verification free, family friendly blog, so everything I share here is for all ages. I am a happily married man in my late sixties who lives on the Wirral peninsula, near Liverpool, in the UK.
I'm a blogger - and nowadays that seems to be my main occupation. Rambles from My Chair is my main blog. I’m a retired local government executive - now studying how to survive a neurological disorder that gives me various problems but, hopefully, a whole new outlook on life and an increased sense of humour and perspective. There is a saying in Sweden "man måste vara frisk för att orka vara sjuk" ~ "you have to be well to cope with being ill"....
I enjoy most forms of communication and postcards are a special favourite. I used to blog as Scriptor Senex which is Latin for Old Writer but now Google only lets me post as John Edwards.
“He’s not so old. He’s just the age that he is, that’s all.” (Gerald Hammond)