"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!


  1. Oh my gosh SS!!!! This is the funniest post I have read in a very long time!!!
    My fav is the tongues of birds! Ha! I will be using that one every chance I get!
    Thank you for a great laugh tonight! You are wonderful!

  2. Oh my gosh! Chicken intestines?! Now that tops them all. Thanks for the lesson.