Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Origins of Common Expressions, No. 28: It's Greek To Me

Meaning: Something that's near incomprehensible due to complexity; unintelligible.

Oregin: The phrase goes back to at least the early 17th century and it was used by two different playwrights from this time period. Their names were Thomas Dekkar and William Shakespeare.

In Dekkar's play Patient Grissel, For example, from the1603 play: 
FAR: Asking for some Greek poet, to him he fails. I’ll be sworn he knows not so much as one 
 character of the tongue.
RIC: Why, then its Greek to him.

Not long after, Shakespeare uses the expression in his 1616 play, Julius Caesar :
CASSIUS: Did Cicero say any thing?
CASCA: Ay, he spoke Greek.
CASSIUS: To what effect?
CASCA: Nay, an I tell you that, I'll ne'er look you i' the face again: but those that  understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me.

William Shakespeare (portrait)

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