It’s Greek to Me

What it is to me

What it is to me

The chart above illustrates a post on Language Log about expressions of the form “It’s Greek to me.”  As you can see, in Greek expressions translated as “It’s Arabic to me” and “It’s Chinese to me” are attested in the sense “I can’t understand it at all,” while in Arabic we find an expression “It’s Hindi to me” and in Chinese “It’s Heavenly Script to me” with the same sense. 

I’m surprised they didn’t find “It’s Czech to me” anywhere.  Czech is apparently famed throughout central and eastern Europe as a particularly forbidding language.  Questions about “simplicity” and “complexity” in language structure have been kicked around on Los Thunderlads before, in a desultory way;  in the post I’m linking to here, Language Log cites a scholarly discussion of that very question.


  1. cymast

     /  January 17, 2009

    I nominate Icelandic for the title of Hardest Language (see Ice). Actually, I did hear it is widely considered to be the most complex.

    Did Rosenberg use the Mohs Scale in his research?

  2. acilius

     /  January 17, 2009

    I didn’t read very far into Rosenberg’s article, I didn’t get to his methodology section.

  3. cymast

     /  January 17, 2009

    I wonder if there is any significance to some of the arrowheads converging and some not.

  4. acilius

     /  January 20, 2009

    I wondered that when I first saw it. There’s enough variation that it doesn’t look like an attempt to fit everything into the space.

  5. acilius

     /  January 21, 2009

    Liberman explains his formatting in the comments section:

  6. cymast

     /  January 21, 2009

    OK thanks.

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