When a speaker of a particular language is confronted with something they don't understand they will use another language as a stand in for the part they don't understand, such as an English speaker saying "it's all Greek to me". This process creates a directed acyclic graph of unintelligibility.

@yogthos Danish speakers have the best though. They say its "Volapük" (often spelled Volapyk) a constructed language (like Esperanto for example)

@fasse @yogthos

Volapük is the second conlang (after Solresol), and the first widely* spoken one!

Why is Russian pointing at Chinese twice?

* widely is an extremely relative term here. Esperanto is much more widely spoken.

@celesteh @fasse @yogthos there are two Russias:

Those who don't speak Cantonese and those who don't speak Mandarin

@yeenbean @celesteh @fasse @yogthos the most surprising thing about this graph is that it ended up being acyclic

conlang nerding 


Wow, no, I'm the one missing detail. Cheers for this

@yogthos Heavenly Script, Hindi, and Arabic are all popular holy text languages 🤔

It's interesting nobody wants to say English is a bloody weird language though.

@yogthos German also uses Chinese, but only and specifically for specialist jargon ("Fachchinesisch", lit. "Expert Chinese"). For more general incomprehensibility, instead we use "Bahnhof" (train station), stereotypically one of the first few words one would learn of another language.

@yogthos i dont see german on this so i guess, we know all the languages now :blobaww:

@samgai @yogthos any idea what speakers of japanese or hindi (not to mention writers of the heavenly writing) might say?

@yogthos @samgai I asked a Japanese friend and they couldn't think of an expression that referred to a really existing language, but they were reminded of チンプンカン (chin pun kan), a word used to suggest an imaginary foreign language that is supposed to be unintelligible (perhaps similarly to how English speakers will sometimes say 'It sounded like gobbledygook').


a flowchart of languages pointing to each other
yiddish and italian point to aramaic
sinhala: to telugu
czech, macedonian, croatian: to spanish
english, norwegian, swedish, persian, spanish, portuguese: to greek
italian and greek: to arabic, which points to hindi
persian: to japanese
romanian: to turkish: to french: to javanese and hebrew
finnish: to hebrew
greek, polish, spanish, portuguese, french, russian (twice), hebrew, dutch, hungarian, latvian, lithuanian: to chinese
chinese: to heavenly script

@yogthos Do Greek people really say "It's all Chinese to me"? XD

@yogthos genuinely surprised there is no instance there of two languages pointing at *each other*

@yogthos surprised there are no cases of bi-directional flow.

@yogthos Now that you're the official maintainer of that graph, please add German -> Spanish to it ("Das kommt mir Spanisch vor")

@yogthos @patrick yeah, but that's not about understanding... that's about finding something suspect. I'd remove Spanish and add Bahnhof

@yogthos @patrick also, since I'm sitting here with an Italian speaker, they think Chinese is more common than Arabic. But it's clearly both in common use.

@jens @yogthos proposes that the Spanish -> Chinese link serves a similar purpose as the German -> Spanish one.

They also cite English -> Greek, but note that our Bahnhof (railway station) might be a closer match to that. (and suggests that Middle High German might have used Greek like English does today)

I guess Languages are difficult :-)


Interesting graphic, if you want to make it more complete, you could add german speakers say its spanish. That is all i knew before.

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