What’s Up?

Today’s blog post is based on an actual conversation that I overheard in the kitchen at work not too long ago. The conversation went like so:

Person A: ?מה קורה (what’s up?)

Person B: ?מה  העניינים (what’s up?)

Person A: ?בסדר. מה נשמע (not much. what’s up?)

Person B: ?איך הולך (what’s up?)

This is already ridiculous, but WAIT! Now Person C enters the kitchen – it’s about to get interesting!

Person B: ?היי אחי! מה שלומך (hey! what’s up?)

Person C: ?הי, מה חדש (hi, what’s up?)

Person A: ?נו- חברי. באמת. מה המצב (Guys come on. Really. What’s up?)

Ironically, considering the fact that Israelis are an impatient breed, this is not such an abnormal way for conversations to begin. Inexplicably (at least to the native English speaker’s ears), this a legitimate form of a conversation opener – you greet each other until one of the conversationalists has enough and pulls out the all mighty “נו,באמת” (literally means “come on, really?!”) This phrase is generally expressed in an exasperated sigh. I imagine that with the right participants, an intro like this could go on for hours.

In an efficient, no-bullshit conversation, it usually goes like this:

Person A: ?מה נשמע (what’s up?)

Person B: ?היי .סיימת מה שביקשתי ממך לפני יומיים (hey. did you finish what i asked you to do two days ago?)

Person A: כן, כן. אשלח לך עוד מעט (yes, yes. i’ll send it to you in a minute) Side note: This response is a sure sign that Person A totally forgot to complete B’s task.

Note that in Hebrew, the proper answer (and literal translation) to “what’s up” is not “nothing” or “not much.” – in Hebrew you respond with “good,” “fine” or “all’s well.” This leads to a bizarre misunderstanding in translating between the two languages, and often leads to Israelis attempting to correct me in English.

In that same conversation from the kitchen at work, once everyone was done asking each other what’s up, they turned to me and, in English, asked me (surprise surprise) the same question.

So naturally I replied with “not too much,” as is customary. But nope. I was told: “Keeerra, when someone esk you what ees up, you answer to heem with ‘good.’ You don’t say ‘nothing’ – dat is not correct.” Yeaaaah not so much.

I suppose my summary of this post is this: when you hear an Israeli ask someone a form of “what’s up,” do yourself a favor and just walk away. Either that, or grab some popcorn, make yourself comfy and get ready for the show.


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