Saturday, 6 February 2021


Via JWZ which is so much more than an excellent resource for quiz nights once bars get to re-open, we learn that there’s of course equivalent phrases in other languages that convey the same sense as the scribal gloss and line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar for encountering something incomprehensible—dismissively or otherwise—completely with a directional graphic showing where each language might attribute the impenetrable sounds. When a Hebrew-speaker is pinned in a corner, for them “it sounds Chinese” and conversely for someone whose mother tongue is Korean, something that seems like gibberish smacks of Hebrew, reportedly. For Germans, it’s Kauderwelsch, a trade patois. Ich verstehen nur Bahnhof. Chinese itself defers to the celestial language of the gods.  What’s all Greek to you? Especially appealing is the etymology of the term Gringo coming from the similar expression “hablar en griego” and how in Esperanto, one sighs, “tio estas volapukaฤตo”—that’s a Volapรผk thing, a contemporary rival constructed language invented by a priest in Baden.