5 Ways to Explain “What’s Up”

Whenever I am asked the question “What’s up”, I never know how to respond.  The old, sarcastic response of “the sky”?  That’s been used too often.  Should I answer with the real answer to the question, a summary of what is happening in my life?  Since the phrase has come into common use, it’s no longer thought of as a question of what someone is doing, but just as a generic greeting.  Nevertheless, some answer is required, and an awkward silence should be avoided at all costs.  In order to utterly destroy awkward silences in this end of conversation, I give you a list of 5 ways to answer the question “What’s up?”

  1. “My eyebrows.”  This is true no matter what, unless you have had your eyebrows surgically removed, you are a creature that doesn’t naturally possess eyebrows, or you are the Dark Lord Sauron.  But if none of those is the case, and since the perspective of any human is through its eyes, we can always truthfully say that our eyebrows are up.
  2. “Not really.”  This isn’t true considering the question asked, but it doesn’t make any sense either– so it’s a good choice.  If you say it cheerfully, it will be especially confusing.  And don’t explain yourself.
  3. “Up is a noun meaning that direction.”  Point up as you say this, and launch a monologue based off the definitions, etymology and common idioms containing “up”.  I suggest you write this monologue beforehand, using information from any dictionary you choose.  If you’re forced to make something up on the spot, or if your audience seems genuinely interested, tell them that it’s ultimately derived from the Latin word for duck.  Then say you have to rush off somewhere else.  It is important that you follow up this statement with the action, in order to leave your audience utterly befuddled.
  4. “Ooh, bad luck, [whatever their name is]!  The correct question was, ‘What color is the island of Samoa?’  This has been Jeopardy! Thank you, and good night!”  No explanation necessary.
  5. “…And then I told Phil, the only way to properly play a violin is with steaks, you see?  And he smiled and nodded, but I don’t think he knew what I was talking about, do you?”  Basically, come into their hearing carrying on a conversation you’ve already begun in your head.  It’s quite a fun activity.

I hope these examples will spark new ideas for your own conversations.  If you can find someone who will play along readily, good for you– prepare for a great, but meaningless, conversation.

31 thoughts on “5 Ways to Explain “What’s Up”

  1. Haha this is absolutely HILARIOUS. Shared this with my family. Especially loved #3 and sounds like something that i would do and be TOTALLY DORKY while doing it. 😀 Loooove it. Love them all though. Um 2nd favorite is the Jeopardy one HAHAHA.

  2. I hate this question. From the other comments, I assume most other people do too. Why do others insist on asking this all the time? I shall use these some time – I’ve resorted to a boring, monotonous nod. Thank you. (BTW, I found you on NaNo.)

  3. If someone replied to my ‘what’s up’ saying, “Up is a noun meaning that direction,” while pointing to the sky, I would counter with, “Ahem, ‘up’ is a preposition, adjective, or adverb. Thought you should know that.”

      1. Woah, enough with the theatrics. Don’t tell me you have a giant, moss-covered tower, the top of which scratches the very stratosphere. Oh, and the likes of which the world has never seen?

      2. I’m impressed. There are few menacing tower-cleaning services out there that take care of moss any higher than the troposphere. To be fair, I guess the moss would cease to exist as the oxygen thins out. I’m putting way too much thought into this.

  4. I like to reply “what’s down?” This can be expanded to any direction (left/right, sideways, diagonal, parallel, perpendicular, near/far, north/south/east/west, or other random things like in/out, on/off etc. Good times, xx

  5. Goodness, I love this! I shall definitely use the eyebrows one, if nothing else, accompanied by vigorous eyebrow muscle movement. Also, I should warn you, I am the master of rambling monologues, and I took the “up” monologue as a challenge. Prepare for me to spam your comments section with pointless information:

    “Hey, what’s up?”
    “Actually, that is a very good question. You see, ‘up’ is a very singular word, having a comprehensive myriad of definitions. It is among the only words in the English language that can be used as a noun, preposition, adverb, adjective, and even a verb. The majority of its uses generally relate in some manner to the direction ‘up,’ which in itself refers to a direction of higher elevation than that of the speaker’s current perspective. It can also define a period of good fortune, describe a feeling or state of happiness, imply the state of being informed or aware, signify a conclusion or termination, refer to holding a high position or station, or attribute an occurrence or happening. It is also used in many common idioms and informal terms, such as: ‘perk up,’ ‘crack up,’ ‘make up,’ ‘up against,’ ‘hold up,’ ‘suck up,’ ‘own up,’ and so on. Unlike the majority of the English language, ‘up’ is not related to any Latin or Hellenistic root, but is rather the combined product of Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Middle Dutch, Old Norse, and even Old High German, though it’s more commonly traced back to Old and Middle English. Interestingly, in a recent study of the most frequently used words in the English language, ‘up’ was in the top ten. Up is used so often, in fact, that it has become what linguists might call an ‘invisible word,’ meaning it is such a natural part of conversation that listeners rarely notice its presence. Fascinating, don’t you think?”

    1. And now I just thought of a well-deserved comeback to my own smartarse reply. “You know, you’re right about the whole idiom thing. There are a lot of them! But you forgot my favorite: shut up.”

      1. I know! I’m just so helpful like that. (I’m also highly intelligent, talented, clever, attractive, charismatic, virtuous, hilarious, wise, and mindbogglingly humble. And I can make some mean pancakes.)

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