Entering the classroom, I ask, “Hey, guys, how are you?”
Students answer, some all at once, others a few at a time. Then I call out the ones who didn’t respond.
“And how are you?”
“Um, so-so, Teacher,” one says.
After about fifty-eleven of these conversations, I decided to do something about it. I mean, seriously, who says so-so?
I tell them this.
“Thing is, none of my friends actually say so-so. We understand what it means. But we just don’t say it. What do we say instead?”
“Like ask me how I’m doing. Ask me how I am. One, two, three…”
“How are you, Teacher?” they say.
“I’m… okay. That’s what we say. Or, ‘Not bad.’ But we don’t say so-so. It’s not wrong. We just don’t say it. So if you want to sound all American, just say, ‘Not bad.’ Or something better, like, ‘I feel wonderful.’ So, how are you doing?”
Then I motion to one student in particular, the one off to the side who’s listening but too shy to speak up.
“How ’bout you? How do you feel?” I encourage.
Ah, that’s the second lamest response I hear, and my friends say it too, not just my students.
“Just fine? Really? You’re not like, like…”
“Fineapple!” says Harry from the other side of the room.
“Yeah, yeah,” I say. “Like fineapple. What does fineapple mean?”
“Very, very, very, very, very, so much good,” says Harry.
“Fineapple,” I say, more to myself than to the class. “I like that.”
So over the next few weeks, I introduce my students to fineapple. I make a list on the board of common responses to the question, “How are you?” Then I rank them, something like this:
- Bored: -3
- Tired: -2
- Not too good: -1
- Not bad: 0
- Fine: +1
- Good: +2
- Wonderful: +3
Finally, I drop in fineapple. I say it’s like a +10. They get that. Fineapple is like “very, very, very, very, very, so much good.”
For a while, I’ve wanted to come up with a signature response to the “How you doin’?” question. Over the past year or so, I’ve used, “Excellent so far.” That works online but, to me, doesn’t feel natural in person. Now I’m pretty sure my students have signed my signature for me.
How am I?
I’m fineapple! You?