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What’s Up? May 26, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, People, Word Play.

The-Pink-PantherNot long ago, I attended a Potluck Supper for our street. BFF stayed home with a “stomach bug.”

(Yeah, right.)

Overall, a pleasant evening with a good turn-out and yummy food (even for vegetarians) but I noticed something alarming:

What’s up with people starting conversations by saying . . . What’s up? 

All night long, people in their 60’s and up, who’ve had a lifetime to perfect the art of conversing over cocktails, would wander over, smile, and attempt to shift the burden for the conversation to me:

* What’s up?

* What have you been up to?

* How’s it hanging?  (Well, not really, but they might have . . .)

* What have you been doing? 

Seriously.  Every conversation, of more than a baker’s dozen, started with  What’s up? . . . or a variant thereof.  

Donald-Duck-BaseballWhat a subtle and insidious way to put immediate pressure on the addressee (in this case, ME!) to come up with an interesting topic for conversation rather than assuming responsibility for getting the conversation started by sharing some interesting insight into life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

What’s up with that?

I understand that starting conversations with a generic question is safer than launching directly into a potentially treacherous debate amid the life-threatening minefields of politics, religion, or global warming, but still . . .

What about opening with your delight that the world is still revolving on its axis, or how you (or your darling grandkids) plan to spend the summer holidays, or by sharing a chuckle about  how your New Year’s Resolution to become a better conversationalist has fallen by the wayside?

Oh, my responses? 

After I realized the lay of the land, I just started throwing the ball right back into their court:

* Not much!  How ’bout with you?

* We’ve been hibernating to stay out of the sun.  How ’bout you?

* Just goofin’ off.  How ’bout you?

* You know, same ol’, same ol’ ~ how ’bout you?

Wait!  I’ve got an idea!

150px-Carlo_Crivelli_052Next time someone asks me What’s Up?, I’ll say I’m writing a book ~ The Art of Conversation for Dummies

I’ll ask for tips on:

* Conversation Starters

* Conversations Gone Bad

* Extricating Foot from Mouth

* Ill-timed Toasts (with an introduction by President Obama)

* The Idiot’s Guide to Terminating Conversations with Dummies

Paula’s already got just the cover:  Just For Nancy!

So . . . what’s up with you guys?

No rules.  Just write!

* * * * *

And, now, without further ado, I give you . . . Thursday’s Teasers and Tips:

* Check out Perfect Casting by PTC ~ and cast your thoughts into the mix.

* Alarmed by the Shocking Moral Decay around us?  Read Greg’s thoughts.

* Need a creative boost?  Visit Rosa’s Picks to see amazing artwork like this:

Yes . . . that’s a painting, not a photograph!  Paintings by Oriana Kacicek 

* Want a “unique” Vegetarian Recipe for Memorial Day?   Visit The Anvil.

* Love to laugh?  Visit The Laughing Housewife and enjoy her daily jokes.

* Still not smiling?  Banana School by Carl D’Agostino will make you LOL!


1. Lian - May 26, 2011

It’s such an annoying sentence right? Where I come from people say “and?” which is supposed to be something like “how are you?” and I think it’s really weird. A proper response would we “and as well”. Is that just plain weird or is it just me? Love the painting by the way!

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Lian ~ I have tears rolling down my cheeks from laughing.

That is the laziest conversation starter I have ever heard: And?

We are doomed. 😉

Booksphotographsandartwork - May 26, 2011

That one takes the cake for sure!

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Takes the cake . . . and a piece of pie!

Rosa - May 26, 2011

I have a friend who follows just about every story I tell with… “And then?” At first it drove me nuts! But I got used to it, and now it’s sort of a joke between us!

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Those are the best kind of inside jokes . . . the recognition by both parties that people are amusing. 😀

2. Lian - May 26, 2011

I know, right? It’s not even a prop conversation starter, you just say “ans as well” and then you’re back where you started. Please send me a copy of your book when it’s done, it’s much needee around here 😉

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Will do!

But first I need to see if the “For Dummies” series already has a book on The Art of Conversation. There seems to be a “For Dummies” book on every topic under the sun.

3. William D'Andrea - May 26, 2011

I find it best to just smile and say “Hi”. There is no commitment on your part except to smile and say “Hi” back.
When it comes to courtesy, all you have to do is say “Please”, “Thank you” and “Have a good day.”
One more thing about saying “Please” and “Thank You”. If nothing else, our mothers would all be so proud of us.

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

You’re right, William. I started most conversations with:

Hi. Haven’t seen you since the last potluck. Glad you could make it.

Please and Thank You are wonderful words.

Thank you, William.

4. Paula Tohline Calhoun - May 26, 2011

Thanks for the Trackback! Also – do you actually get “What’s up?” or something more like ” ‘s up?” Your peeve is like mine on “you guys.”

I have certain stock answers that would and probably do annoy some people, i.e., whenever asked “How are you doing?” I always answer “I’m hanging in there, and as long as it’s not by that neck, that’s a good thing. . .”

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

I included the “you guys” just for you! 😉

This whole post is tongue in cheek. When people get older, they know that life is precarious. It pays to make sure that nothing is terribly wrong before launching into a conversation “full speed ahead.”

5. Maggie - May 26, 2011

Whenever someone asks me “what’s up?” I always say “the sky” or some variant of that. That greeting has always been irksome to me.

“What’s up?”
“Nothing much, just chillin.'”

And that is usually the extent of the conversation.

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

I agree. I’d rather have them make a bit more effort:

Did you change hairdressers? Your style is . . . um . . . different.

Wow! You’ve lost weight!

I love your smile. It lights up the room!

Where’s BFF? Another stomach bug? 😉

6. Greg Camp - May 26, 2011

In “Gulliver’s Travels,” one of the societies is made up of scholars who are so absorbed in their researches that they have to whack each other with balloons when they wish to have a conversation. The first word of “Beowulf” is “Hwaet,” meaning “Lo!” As empty as these conversation starters are, they let the other person know that we’re in a friendly mood. It’s the same with a handshake or a salute. Both show that we aren’t holding a weapon in our right hands. (I’m a lefty–sinister being the Latin word for left.)

Now, when someone asks me, what’s up, I often respond, the asbestos in the ceiling.

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Thanks, Greg!

I remember laughing all the way through that part of Gulliver’s Travels ~ one of my favorite satires on society and its foibles.

I wonder if balloons escaping and floating “up” spawned the expression “What’s up?”

Thanks also for the insight on handshakes and salutes. I seem to recall hearing that at some point in the past but it’s since slipped through the sieve.

7. Cindy - May 26, 2011

That’s a painting? Good Lord!

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Amazing, isn’t it? You MUST check out her work . . . she does glorious food and drink paintings that look delicious enough to ingest.

8. Yor Ryeter - May 26, 2011

Liked the ballet shoes painting ♥

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Check out Oriana’s website. Her work is spectacular.

9. judikruis - May 26, 2011

I’ve used “the sky” answer myself and DO prefer a bit more conversation with others. Thanks for your sharing and humor!

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Thanks, Judi! Hope you’re having a grand day.

10. carldagostino - May 26, 2011

Been changed a while back to wazzup and now just sup

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

We are uber busy, Carl. Too busy to say:

How are you doing? ~ 5 syllables
How ya doing? ~ 4 syllables
How goes it? ~ 3 syllables
What’s up? ~ 2 syllables

Now we’re down to 1 syllable:

‘Sup? 😉

11. suzicate - May 26, 2011

Love it…the book is sure to be a best seller…I’ll bet people will take up donations and buy hundreds of copies for their local schools!

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

It shall be a perfect stocking stuffer for teens and tweens! 😀

12. Piglet in Portugal - May 26, 2011

Ummm…for once I’m lost for words 🙂

When we first moved to Portugal most people were new so I just wandered up to people and introduced myself…started to chat about nothing in particular and it went on from there. IF in doubt us Brits can usually talk about the weather and go on from there.

The most embarrasing moment EVER was once when conversation turned to Expat forums and without thinking I said my forum name was Piglet. The woman I’d been speaking with then started screeching to her husband, in her broad norther accent…”eee by gum george this is Piglet PIGLET, George it’s Piglet, come and meet Piglet”

My hubby gave me one of those withering looks and yes the ground did open and swallow me up! Everyone at the party turned and stared at me…Blast my cover was blown!

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

That’s too funny . . . sounds like she was squealing like a piglet! 😀

It’s hard to remain incognito, isn’t it? Little bits of this and that sneak into the conversation and the next thing you know . . . no more on-line secrecy.

Piglet in Portugal - May 26, 2011

Yep, apparently we had been corresponding on-line for about a year. Scary!
I give this woman a wide birth now, she is truly dreadful LOL 🙂

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

I burst out laughing again. You tickle my funny bone, PiP!

I’m sorry that you’re in “avoidance” mode when she appears on your radar, but I understand. One does what one must when the truly dreadful appear on the scene. 😀

13. Vixter2010 - May 26, 2011

Wow that is lazy conversation! Great book idea, I think it’ll sell millions 🙂

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Thanks, Vix!

And just imagine the FUN it will be writing chapters on Conversations Gone Bad . . . and Ill-Timed Toasts.

14. Richard W Scott - May 26, 2011

When someone asks me that, I tend to look up, and depending where I am say something like: “Cumulus Nimbus”, or “stucco”.

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

It’s always so tempting, isn’t it? 😉

I’m more apt to tease my nieces and nephews like that than well-meaning neighbors who are just a bit “tongue tied.”

15. souldipper - May 26, 2011

You’ve just clarified why I have always disliked, “What’s new in your life?” You’re right…it does put the onus squarely on the recipient. Next time, I’m going to say, “You! What’s up?” 😀

Amazing painting! That woman is an incredible artist.

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Her paintings force me look for brush marks for proof that she painted them instead of just snapping a photo. She’s remarkable.

16. Tokeloshe - May 26, 2011


Oriana paintings are stunning!

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Thanks, Tok! I expect that you would love exploring her site. It’s in 3 parts: paintings, prints, and early paintings (back to age 1).

17. Booksphotographsandartwork - May 26, 2011

I hate that expression. It only fits certain people and if you aren’t one of those and you use you just sound stupid.

nrhatch - May 26, 2011

Someone I know (who shall remain nameless) starts every conversation the same way:

* What’s going on? . . . I answer
* So, how’s it going? . . . I answer
* How are you doing? . . . I answer
* What’s new? . . . I answer

He doesn’t even listen to my answers. He just keeps repeating the same question in new ways.

It’s very fatiguing. 😦

18. Rosa - May 26, 2011

Thanks so much for the mention!!

Rosa - May 26, 2011


nrhatch - May 26, 2011

You’re welcome. Everyone is loving Oriana’s artwork which proves Rosa’s picks are good picks! 😀

19. jannatwrites - May 26, 2011

This is exactly why I prefer to hit the buffet table and then go find a quiet corner to sit in. I don’t mean to be socially inept, it just happens 😉

Just today, someone from work (whom I hadn’t seen in a couple weeks) stopped by my desk. She asked me what I’d been up to. My response, “work.” I didn’t know what else to say because I’ve done a lot of stuff in two weeks and 99% of it no one could possibly care about. I did her a favor!

nrhatch - May 27, 2011

You’ve just hit the nail on the head. I do tons of stuff that interests ME . . . and not that much that’s worth sharing with others. 😉

I write. I read. I paint. I sing.
I dance. I bike. I sleep. I swim.

I drink. I eat . . . Chocolate.

20. Just For Nancy! « Reflections From a Cloudy Mirror - May 27, 2011

[…] Hatch, of Spirit Lights the Way, had a great idea yesterday.  A book for the countless people who don’t know how to start […]

21. viewfromtheside - May 27, 2011

One thing to do is respond ABOUT the question. I’m not sure what you mean by that.

nrhatch - May 27, 2011

That really would toss the ball back into their court. “How do you mean?”

22. adeeyoyo - May 27, 2011

Love Piglet’s story – anonymity can’t be overvalued!

nrhatch - May 27, 2011

I agree. The price of fame is the loss of anonymity. I value my anonymity . . . it’s like a cloak of invisibility. 😉

23. kateshrewsday - May 27, 2011

Here those starter questions have become rhetorical, Nancy. People answer but no-one actually volunteers info unless they are dying to tell you something.

Great round up. Your generosity as a blogger makes me think I really should try something similar….

nrhatch - May 27, 2011

I’m going to attempt to do it more often because I’m always so impressed with the blogs I read. I planned to highlight 3 which became 4 which grew to 5 which landed on 6.

The same thing happened when I wanted to pick 1 of your posts to share . . . and couldn’t narrow my picks sufficiently. Like the Energizer Bunny, the list kept going and going and going. 😀

nrhatch - May 27, 2011

And, yes, they are viewed as rhetorical questions . . . along the lines of:

Are you interested in talking to me right now?

24. Sandra Bell Kirchman - May 27, 2011

My first introduction to “What’s up?” and “‘Sup?” was in EverQuest, an online game that my husband and I enjoy playing. In the beginning (about 12 years ago), the game was generously populated by lads from 12 to 21.

The most ridiculous question I was ever asked in this milieu was, “Are you really a girl?”

I didn’t know how to convince them through written chat. Think about it – without seeing them and without them hearing your voice, how do you prove you’re a girl? Of course, you could say that I didn’t need to prove anything, but the question took me by surprise.

It was some time later that I realized that, at that time, the vast majority of players (95% or more) were male. That quotient has changed since then, but it was staggering to realize at the time.

nrhatch - May 27, 2011

Usually from posts and comments I can determine the gender of bloggers (when their name doesn’t reveal it at the outset) . . . but not always.

A few, it is clear, wish not to wear the label of “male” or “female” in the blogosphere. They are careful not to disclose identifying characteristics.

I’ve been referred to as “mister” on a few occasions because I use my initials rather than my name. I let them run with their assumption. 😉

25. Tilly Bud - May 27, 2011

I think people like that are probably a little socially inept and you may kill their confidence with your comeback. It might be better to engage them in conversation, because you are more than capable.

Thanks for the mention 🙂

nrhatch - May 27, 2011

Oh, I agree, Tilly. I try not to shine the spotlight on “social ineptness” . . . except in self-defense.

You’re welcome. I’m enjoying your jokes . . . and all your posts. 😀

26. therealsharon - May 27, 2011

I’ve grown up through the years where “What’s up?” got more and more popular and I still like to respond with “The sky” which usually gets an annoyed look and a response of “You know what I meant!”…..Obviously I know they are asking me about what’s going on in my life but that’s such a vague question. It’s so much more fun to be sarcastic back….

nrhatch - May 27, 2011

It’s always so tempting . . . 😉

How I respond depends in large part on who asks the question. If it’s someone I seldom see, I skip the sarcasm. If it’s someone I see regularly . . . I’d like to nip the problem in the bud.

27. eof737 - May 28, 2011

“You know, same ole, same ole ~ how ’bout you?” Oh this is hysterical… That must be the slang of the moment amongst the group you were hangin’ with. Way too funny! 🙂

nrhatch - May 28, 2011

How to converse without saying a thing. 😉

28. Oriana Kacicek « Spirit Lights The Way - July 7, 2011

[…] & Drink, People. Tags: Art, Oriana Kacicek, Paint, Peach Melba trackback I’ve featured Oriana’s paintings before, but I couldn’t resist sharing a few […]

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