It is all Greek to me

Recently, I fear I sound a lot like Mr Portokalos, the eccentric Greek patriarch in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Mr Portokalos, a Greek immigrant in the USA, being very proud of his heritage, does not only believe that Greece provided the foundations of Western culture, but never misses an opportunity to prove the point.

“Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek” is his motto.

Indeed, he has the unique ability to create connections and eventually link any English word to a similarly sounding Greek word.  His line of reasoning occasionally makes for truly hilarious instances.

The last few months, as my children are becoming curious about the new words they encounter, I hear Mr Portokalos in my head, as I say:

“Oh this is a Greek word”

“Did you know that the origin of this word is Greek?” 

“This comes from the Greek word…”

Only this weekend, we came across the following: hypothesis, thesaurus, octopus, airplane, planet, astronomy, telescope, paragraph, apostrophe, synonym. Not to mention all the mathematical terminology or physics vocabulary I use in my work.

So the phrase (another English word originating from Greek) “it is all Greek to me” can have a literal meaning to me.

In English, it means “I can’t understand it at all”. But do you know what the equivalent Greek phrase is? “It is all Chinese to me”.

I wonder what the Chinese say.


2 thoughts on “It is all Greek to me”

  1. Please, remember Mr. Portokalos, though, that the name Miller doesn’t come from μήλο and the name Maradona doesn’t come Μαραθώνα, ΟΚ ? 😉

    Want to hear a funny story ? When we went to O.’s inιtial Reception meeting for parents, so that the teachers could show us how to help children learn to read and write, they presented us with a piece of paper with the following sentences:

    – Τηισ ισ α βροων λιον.
    – Τηισ ισ α ρεδ τθρτλε.
    – Τηισ ισ α γολδεν ρινγ.

    And they asked parents if we could read them saying that this is what written language appears to a child for the first time, like an alien code that they have to decipher, “It all seems Greek to them”, they said. C. and I started laughing then and the teachers quickly said “Which, if you are fortunate to be Greek, can help you trememendously !”

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