Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ask Not, Unless You Wish to be Told


Hi! (grin) How are you?

Hello (smile) I'm good. And you?

Doin' Great!


Warning! Warning!

Has this ever happened to you? People asking the "how are you" question without really wanting to know how you are. It has become a substitute for the simple hello. Is it a reflection of (what I feel) is our culture's shallowness? Are people asking because they want the appearance of caring or wanting to know how you are? Or are they too caught in the perpetual web of the question-greeting?

I realize my power of rhetoric is quite sad, but I'm curious on your thoughts.

The afore-mentioned Iraqi group had a few members that used the phrase "how are you" in place of "hi" or "hello". Ie, they didn't wait for a response or even seem to expect one. For them, it took the function of a greeting.

But when my boss walks by and says "Hi Redgirl, how are you?" I doubt she wants to know that a car cut me off on the way to work and I'm still shaking from a near-death experience. (bike rider, remember. Being cut off has different connotations for us)

Then there's the answer provided. Below I list some of the acceptable answers to the question:

Great
Fine
Good
Well
Splendid
Stupendous
Exemplary
Bordering on Giddy with happiness

As you can see...once you've used up the staid responses, you either start repeating yourself, or you have to start treading uncharted territory. Then, if you really weren't "blissfully happy with a chance of showers", you might be called upon to explain why you have achieved this level of happiness. Then you have to get into the "well, I'm expecting the email results of my 5 children's paternity tests because my husband says that if any of them aren't his then he is going to divorce me, fake his death, and move to Cambodia" kind of thing. And whose boss is really going to be receptive to things like that? (I know, that dang rhetoric keeps rearing its ugly head)

So...we have the challenge to avoid answering the question without appearing to do so. I offer the following:

Them: Hi! How are you doing?
Me: Hello! It's a lovely day!

Or you can just stop after "hello".

My problem at this point is this:

Them: Hi! How are you doing?
Me: (opens mouth about to answer truthfully with unnecessary information, then realizes she doesn't REALLY care how I'm doing, she just wants the normal "peachy keen!" type answer. frantically tries to decide if she will use the "unrelated question" approach or the "lie with a positive word" approach. Chooses to say "great")

Too late. Door has closed behind person of unnecessary greeting. Greet-ee sits with mouth open like a guppy. Small gnat flies inside mouth. Chew. Swallow. Repeat. Writes blog entry to get it out of system.

3 comments:

lifeshighway said...

Hey redgirl, how are you doing today?

Funny blog today and insightful. I wonder if the polite question greeting has a long history. For example: My Fair Lady and "Hooow, do yoo, do"

Carolyn said...

I hate saying, "Fine..."
I treat the greeting like it is, a hello. I just say Hi or Hello back. It is always treated as an acceptable response.

Boots and Saddles 4 Mel said...

It bugs me that people say "good" in response to "how are you?". Isn't the correct, grammarical response "well"?