What’s Up?

31 July, 2007

I mean, seriously, what is up? I’ve been down here for more than 6 months now, and this still throws me for a loop. I pass people at work and say “hi,” and they fire back a “what’s up?”

What on earth is the proper response to that? I’m used to people asking, “How’s it going?” That’s easy to answer. Any adjective will do. Even a single adverb is acceptable. The key point is that you can respond appropriately with a single word, which is handy when, you know, you meet someone coming the other direction and need to fit a micro-conversation into that brief span of time before you pass and have to start hollering over your respective shoulders at each other.

But what do you do with “what’s up?” That’s hard to answer in less than a sentence. I’ll confess I started off answering, purely on reflex, with “good,” then wincing afterwards, since that’s a total non sequitur and makes no sense. Really, the question demands a subject and probably a predicate too, or you really haven’t answered the question.

I’ve actually started asking people how one is supposed to answer. And people really haven’t been able to give me a good answer. People just shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know… nothing?” That’s a fine interaction, isn’t it?

“What’s up?”


One friend even admitted that he has no clue how to respond to that, and it actually annoys him too.

I thought up a bunch of smartass answers (Mortality, Taxes, the Sky, Childhood Obesity, etc), but the truth is, I just want an answer that is sincere and polite, yet still succinct enough to serve me in those hallway walk-bys.

So here’s my plan. From now on, I’m just going to try to be quicker on the draw. When I run into someone at work, I’m going to try to blast ’em with a “How’s it going?” before their “What’s up?” clears the holster.

Another blow for cross-cultural condemnation. =P



  1. Good idea.

    I wouldn’t know how to deliver a succinct answer either if there was actually something up at the time.

  2. Say ‘your ass’ or better yet say ‘YOUR ass’ and point an index finger at them. It’ll be good and memorable. It’s good to be memorable in any new office. Hey here comes the “your ass’ guy, he’s from Canada, I thought they were friendly up there, well, not that one, we got the only rude canadian. Very memorable. They’ll be talking about it around the water cooler in no time….until you approach of course.

  3. Wow, you really are the Bruce of Good Ideas. Thanks, Bruce! =D

  4. Here in southern Cali, an entirely appropriate response would be “the rent”.


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