A tough question

Tuesday July 6, 2021

I used to teach English to speakers of other languages. Ask any student of English “How are you?” and you’ll get a pat response: “Fine, thanks. And you?”. It was always quite a relief that it wasn’t until higher levels that we taught “How do you do?”: it's such a nonsensical question on paper – but by that stage, students were familiar with the notion that you just have to accept English ‘as it is’.

Many of you will remember the Whatsuppppp advertising campaign, where it was pretty well drummed into us that the response to “Whatsup” is “Wazzup”- the louder, the better. Long before the adverts, I had an American friend who used it as a greeting, and one day I asked him what he expected me to say when he asked it. He recommended we proceed as follows: “Whatsup?” -- “Not much.”

I wish someone would ask me “Wazzup"! I’ve been struggling along for a few months now, and I live in absolute fear of that seemingly simple question: “How are you?”

Of course, it’s lovely of them to ask! It’s asked - usually in a text message - by people who care. They care sufficiently and know enough of my life that I can’t get away with “Fine thanks, and you?”. Deprived of the standard way to negotiate this heartfelt enquiry, and unable to come up with anything along the lines of “Good, thanks”, I’ve tried all ways around it but they ask again. 

Cue quite a long pause where instant messaging will tell the other person: ‘Alice is typing…’ – hopefully they’ve put their phone down and put the kettle on because this is going to take a while.  ‘Alice is typing…’ I hope they are not going to judge how long it takes to come up with four words... better think of a few more. Scratch that. Start again. That'll do. Phew. Pulse racing. Send: "Not on top of the world, but OK. How about you?"

It’s inevitable that we’ll get to the point in a conversation where we will talk about whether or not each of us is OK. Am I alone in finding “How are you?" a demanding conversation opener? 

Perhaps it would be easier to answer something more binary like “Are you OK?” – you’ve got a few options there – yes, no, not sure, more or less, all the better for hearing from you.

I might start campaigning to resuscitate “How do you do?”. It’s starting to feel like a legitimate question, and of course, the standard response also makes perfect sense: “How on earth do you do?”

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment below.


Comments are viewable only by members. Register Now to participate in the discussion.

Already have an account? Login to leave a comment.

There are 46 comments so far.

What is Moodscope?

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. If you’d like to receive these daily posts by email, just sign up to Moodscope now, completely free of charge.

Moodscope is an innovative way for people to treat their own low mood problems using an engaging online tool. Anyone in the world can accurately assess and track daily mood scores over a period of time. We have proved that the very act of measuring, tracking and sharing mood can actually lift it. Join now.

Blog Archive


Posts and comments on the Moodscope blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. Moodscope makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any of the links.

Moodscope will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.