Talk:it's all Greek to me

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Wikipedia page[edit]

Yargh. I created a Wikipedia entry yesterday, having seen the German phrase "Das kommt mir spanisch vor" on the German Wikipedia. It looks like the page on Wikipedia is growing nicely, as I am collecting versions in other languages, too, and trying to integrate it as a language phenomenon, and not "simply" an idiom (i.e. I am showing how developing such a phrase is linked to terms like w:barbarian, etc.). I'm guessing there's room for both pages. Samwaltz 21:44, 11 April 2007 (UTC)

It would be interesting to get the Chinese and Arabic translations of this ;) Mutante 21:47, 11 April 2007 (UTC)

Deletion debate[edit]

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"I don’t understand any of it; it makes no sense."

Greek, sense 3: "Nonsense talk or writing; gibberish.", with the example sentence "it's all Greek to me." One could just as well say "it's meaningless to me" or "it's gibberish to me", with the same meaning. Seems like this is entirely SoP. --Yair rand 18:56, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

No keep. Maybe rename but this seems idiomatic to me. If anything I'd RFV the sense at Greek which I've never heard of outside of this phrase. Mglovesfun (talk) 19:58, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
Keep but move. Yes, idiomatic and famous. But this should just be an alternative form of the base expression "It's Greek to me," which is closer to the original in Shakespeare. ("It was Greek to me" should also be an alt form.) -- WikiPedant 20:09, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
Move to Greek to me, which seems to be the core set phrase. It gets 11 hits at COCA vs 2 for the RfDed term and 2 for all forms of "[be] Greek to me". I don't know how many redirects or inclusions of specific forms as usage examples/citations we need. I think "it's", "all", and all forms of "be" and "seem" are (or ought to be stopwords, so that an entry at Greek to me would be at the top of a failed-to-find-as-headword search for almost any search term that included those words. BNC: 4 total, all with "all", but some with intervening words. DCDuring TALK 20:56, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
Above was true, but crucially incomplete. There are many substitutes for the object of "to". My idiom dictionary has an entry at "Greek to (someone)". One may as well have redirects to Greek#Noun or greek#Noun as to Greek to. DCDuring TALK 21:07, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
The problem with that is that Google books gets quite a few hits for "Greek to you", "Greek to him", etc. --Yair rand 20:59, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
I realized that as I posted. DCDuring TALK 21:07, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
Re:WikiPedant: I don't think "closer to the original" should be at issue here. What's important is how the idiom has popularized. There are many words and expressions which are attested no earlier than Shakespeare, but which are used in quite a different form or spelling than that used by the Bard. --EncycloPetey 22:16, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
Keep; this is idiomatic. Yes, there are other ways to say the same thing, but you don't say "It's all French to me," or "It's all Czech to me." The idiom in English uses "Greek". --EncycloPetey 22:16, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
How? If you can have "that's all Greek to me", "it's all Greek to him", and "it's Greek to me", and the sense that works in those statements is covered by Greek, how is this idiomatic? --Yair rand 22:29, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
Because there is still a syntactical structure required. This particular sense of Greek is limited to this idiom in its various forms. Changing a pronoun does not invalidate the idiom. --EncycloPetey 22:34, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
If that is correct, shouldn't it be be greek to one? (I know that sounds ridiculous, but that seems to be the standard for idioms.) --Yair rand 22:38, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
That is certainly an option, although I think "Greek" ought to be capitalized if that move is made. My own experience is that, for this particular idiom, the singular first-person pronoun is by far the most common, which is not the case for most idioms we handle that way. --EncycloPetey 22:45, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
Delete per nom. DCDuring TALK 23:10, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
Keep, but I don't know under which headword. The "to me" part seems crucial to the phrase. I understand the phrase "it's all Greek to me" as "I don't understand a word from the phrase, sentence or schematic, as I lack the knowledge of the language or domain" rather than "it is a pile of gibberish that no one in their right mind could possibly decipher".
--Dan Polansky 10:02, 11 January 2010 (UTC)
Those statistics are not meaningful. Look at what was being returned under "It's Greek to you" -- the first page is all proper names of guides to Greek restaurants and tourist locations. What we need are statistics showing usage of the idiom in English sentences, not proper nouns creating for marketing purposes. We also do not know how independent the various returns are. --EncycloPetey 03:51, 13 January 2010 (UTC)
Would you want to delete thank you as sum of parts, or move it to thank someone? I'm gonna RFV the sense at Greek now. Mglovesfun (talk) 10:53, 11 January 2010 (UTC)
We do not have the verb sense of thank you. If we did, I would certainly RFD it as SoP. The other two senses are used exclusively with you (I don't think I've ever heard someone refer to "a thank me" or used "thank him" as an interjection). --Yair rand 17:13, 11 January 2010 (UTC)
Definitely keep. It's an idiom, besides a very common one. --Anatoli 03:56, 13 January 2010 (UTC)
+1 with Anatoli. Keep --Actarus (Prince d'Euphor) 09:14, 12 February 2010 (UTC)
Just FYI, I made an addition to this sense of the noun (and the adjective) at Greek#Noun: "Unintelligible speech or text, such as foreign speech or text, or regarding subjects the listener is not familiar with, such as mathematics or technical jargon; or statements that the listener does not understand or agree with.", with some citations.
Having said that, I don't know if I agree with it's all Greek to me (680 counts at Google Books). There are also it's Greek to me (654 counts), "sounds like Greek to" (242). These are common sayings, but would someone look them up that way, or instead look up Greek for different uses? Facts707 10:17, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Delete after looking at the variations described just above. Not idiomatic, just one of many uses of Greek in the sense of I don't understand. Leave the sayings for Wikiquote. Facts707 10:37, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Delete per nom & Facts707.​—msh210 18:40, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
Strong Keep - Idiomatic, in common use, and well documented in the page. Not to mention, if I were unfamiliar with the phrase, I would look up the phrase itself ("It's all Greek to me") as opposed to just the word Greek. -SpecOp Macavity 16:51, 11 May 2010 (UTC)
Re: "Not to mention": We can and do address that concern by, for example, having "hard" redirects to the page that has the key term, in this case Greek. We sometimes also insert usage examples or citatations that contain the common collocation even if we decide it is not idiomatic "enough". If we convince ourselves that it is idiomatic, those points are moot. Idiomaticity seems to have many definitions among linguists, which is to say none that is definitive.
Only 2 of Lemmus cantabrigensis (Advanced Learners and Idioms) have this as an entry. It appears as a usage example at "Greek" in AHD and Collins. DCDuring TALK 18:34, 11 May 2010 (UTC)
That may be the case in the texts you've mentioned (tomes which would likely be all Greek to me, I might add). It is not, however, the case in day-to-day life, where the phrase in question is commonly used to indicate a lack of understanding - a lack which is generally due to the use of overly-specific technical language or jargon. --SpecOp Macavity 15:24, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
Keep, in the form of it's Greek to me. Other pronouns such as you or him can be easily deduced from this). Idiomatic English phrase and a similar one can be found in many languages (but usually referring to another language besides Greek). It does not mean that it looks like or sounds like Greek, it only means that it is incomprehensible. It’s the same with the other languages that name some exotic language or other...they don’t mean that language literally, but only that it is incomprehensible. —Stephen 18:25, 11 May 2010 (UTC)
The "tomes" are dictionaries: AHD = American Heritage Dictionary; Collins = Collins English Dictionary (UK), Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, and Cambridge Dictionary of Idioms. Most other dictionaries have the sense of "Greek" or "greek" that we have which fits into this usage. Shorter, non-tome-like print dictionaries might not have this at all or have it as a "run-in" entry at "Greek" or "greek" as, for example, "be all Greek to someone", as Longman's Dictionary of Contemporary English ("DCE") does. DCDuring TALK 15:35, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
I wasn't talking about the dictionaries, I was talking about Lemmus canta-whatever. (And I wouldn't expect print dictionaries to have idiomatic phrases in them - unless, of course, is one of those multi-volume sets you generally find in college reference libraries). --SpecOp Macavity 14:45, 15 May 2010 (UTC)
  • At COCA there are be 52 hits for "greek to", 26 of which seem to be for this expression. Only 11 had "me". Only 7 had "all". Only 4 had 's. The strongest case for a particular form would seem to be Greek to me. There is a strong case for having many redirects for this. "Greek" is the only word that is not a search stopword (I think). As a result, many variant searches generate results that contain many pages that have Greek translations on them and the other common words somewhere on the page. DCDuring TALK 19:09, 11 May 2010 (UTC)

Kept, maybe continue this at WT:RFM concerning the page name. Mglovesfun (talk) 11:45, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

RFM discussion: June 2010–January 2016[edit]


The following discussion has been moved from Wiktionary:Requests for moves, mergers and splits (permalink).

This discussion is no longer live and is left here as an archive. Please do not modify this conversation, but feel free to discuss its conclusions.

Move to Greek to me per analysis at Talk:it's all Greek to me. DCDuring TALK 14:54, 1 June 2010 (UTC)

Support, it was Greek, it would be Greek (etc.) Mglovesfun (talk) 10:58, 5 June 2010 (UTC)
Oppose; this causes severe problems for rendering the proverb/saying (and it's translations) when the verb is absent. Prefer keeping the current entry name and redirecting Greek to me to the current entry. --EncycloPetey 04:01, 16 July 2010 (UTC)
So what. It isn't a proverb. We don't keep sayings, catchphrases, and cliches. We don't have any criteria for Phrasebook entries. (This would not be very high on any list on common or useful terms). Are we just a repository of miscellaneous snippets? DCDuring TALK 11:13, 16 July 2010 (UTC)
Your concern about our Phrasebook here is either a red herring or a straw man (I'm not sure which), but either way it isn't relevant. This isn't a Phrasebook entry. --EncycloPetey 16:36, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
I respected your statement by noting that this expression is not a proverb by any reasonable definition, to which you did not reply. We have repeatedly rejected the rendering concern for a normal entry. The only possible rationale that remained is a Phrasebook rationale: that this kind of expression is an essential way of communicating that one does not understand something. Other than proverbs, phrasebook entries, short imperatives and prosentences, we do not have entries for full sentences, apparently preferring to remain a dictionary.
This isn't Wikiquote either. The word "it's all" are inessential parts of this that only superficially seem entry-worthy because of literary canon worship. Even the pronoun is inessential. The move should probably be to Greek to someone (or we should simply delete and redirect to Greek and make sure that Greek has the appropriate grammatical context).
At COCA of the 52 instances of "Greek to * * *" 20-22 are of the idiomatic construction. Only 2 are of it's all Greek to me. Greek to me is 11; all Greek to me is 5. Getting the comparable statistics from BNC is left as an exercise for the diligent reader. DCDuring TALK 18:39, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
No consensus to move. - -sche (discuss) 04:13, 18 January 2016 (UTC)