Sunday, September 18, 2011

Y'all right?

This week, I've sung Sweet Dreams badly with a live band in front of many people I did not know (it's really hard to pitch when you can't hear yourself), been attacked by a statue in Piccadilly Circus (it tried to grab my face. I hadn't expected it to move) and changed a lightbulb (only took me nine days). I've also been thinking about small talk greetings, specifically 'how are you?'.

It's a bit of a stupid question. Unless it's a special circumstance, you'll just about always hear 'all right'. And 'all right' no longer really means 'all is right with the world', it means 'okay, I guess'. The words are pretty meaningless, because some of the time you might be doing terribly.

But you don't say that, of course

In England, people don't seem to say 'how are you'. They skip straight to a yes-or-no answer - 'Are you all right?' or ''Y'all right?" This confused me for a while - did I look sick? Lost? In need of shop assistance? Were they trying to chat me up (you're all right!)? But no, it's just another step on the evolutionary journey of "How are you". The answer is obviously 'all right', so why make things difficult? Let's have a yes-or-no question.

I hear in some Asian countries people ask 'have you eaten' in the same manner. The answer doesn't really matter: it's the social convention of appearing interested in another person, even if you're not.

What would happen if everyone answered this question honestly? And if everyone who asked really wanted to know the answer? Would we get to know each other better? Or would we feel uncomfortable with the truth? Both, I guess.

Have a good week! Actually.

I'm not just saying that. :)

Edited to add: No! They do say 'how are you?'! I just hadn't noticed. I guess it's kind of an invisible part of speech. And I said 'very good, thank you' in return, so 'all right' does not have to be the default answer. "Are you very good" sounds a bit weird as a question though... 



    You can't leave us hanging like that! Details pleeeeeease....

  2. lol. The statue was actually a person, and I knew it was a person, I just hadn't expected the guy to try and grab my nose. I did a very nice duck, though, if I say so myself.


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