Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Where do gringos come from?

November 4, 2013

Foreign Language Blocks | UncommonGoodsThere was a time when Greek was the universal language of civilized Europeans. By the Middle Ages, however, Latin had become dominant to the point that some monastery scribes, when faced with a text that needed translating, would simply write a note in Latin saying, “It is Greek. It cannot be read.” It was Shakespeare who helped formalize our English version of the phrase in Julius Caesar: “It was Greek to me.” But English isn’t the only language that adopted this idiom. In Spanish, when someone is impossible to understand, you might say, “hablar en griego.” The phrase came with the Spaniards to the New World, and over time the word for “Greek” transformed into “gringo.”

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