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Telling the Greeks, “It’s All Greek To Me”

July 5, 2013

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s all Greek to me?”

No. What does it mean?

This conversation wouldn’t necessarily be noteworthy if it weren’t for my location. Earlier I talked about my penchant for trying to get by with a phrase book. (Do You Speak English?) I tried it during a trip to Athens, Greece with even worse results than normal.

The taxi driver from the airport to my hotel explained to me in broken English that his goal was to move to America and become a race car driver. After a week in Athens, I discovered this was the secret dream of all taxi drivers in Athens. At least according to their driving.

Unlike my trips to Latin America where I could draw on my B- grasp of High School French to at least pronounce words correctly, in Athens, I was completely at the mercy of the phonetic spellings.

Even though many people in Athens spoke English, and the training course I was there to teach was in English, I still made a valiant attempt to speak the local dialect. The word “alphabet” is of Greek origin, (the first two characters in the Greek alphabet are ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’.) However, the Greeks of course, have their own alphabet, as any college fraternity or sorority can attest to. While wandering through the city I discovered my pronunciation was so bad that I was reduced to pointing to the phrase I wanted to use and hoping the merchant could read.

I asked the owner of a pawn shop what the inscription on this emblem meant.


It means, “Be ready.”

Close enough. It’s the symbol of the Boy Scouts, whose motto in English is “Be Prepared.” That sold it.

During my class, while waiting for people to come back from breaks I would pick a line from my phrase book and try it out on my class to hilarious results.

Rodney, that didn’t sound like any language we’ve ever heard. what were you trying to say?

On the second day I asked them about the phrase “It’s all Greek to me.”

We have never heard that phrase before. What does it mean?

It’s a bit of old fashioned English phrase that means “I do not understand anything of what you just told me.”

Ah, we have such a phrase in Greek.


Yes, we say, “It sounds Turkish to me.”

I wonder what they say in Ankara?

Rodney Bliss is a blogger, author and IT consultant. He blames his lack of fluency in Greek to attending Brigham Young University, since it does not allow fraternities or sororities. He lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah with is lovely wife and 13 children.

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