What’s Up: the Unanswerable Question

By Julia Kligman

Human encounters tend to inevitable. As much as I would love to reside under a rock, hidden from the sun, living off of Top Ramen for all of eternity in order to avoid concurrences such as this, it simply isn’t feasible. Some people are endowed with the mystifying ability to circumvent their way around awkward situations. I am not one of those people. To convenience my fellow unsociable individuals, I have attempted to come up with a response to the customary rhetorical question present at the beginning of almost all conversations: “what’s up?”

  1. Take the smartass route. Attempt witty, literal replies. If your comrade asks, “what’s up?” avoid raking your mind for a response by making a habit out of simply retorting, “the sky” or “the ceiling,” based on your surroundings. Use your judgement. (Keep in mind some people are stuck in the 90’s and may ask you “what’s shakin’.” For this, your answer is “tectonic plates.”)
  2. Casually murmur an inaudible response. This way, your comrade will hopefully assume the best and continue the conversation on their own.
  3. Just turn and walk away. This may not have the most desirable effects on your social life, but who needs a social life when we have the Internet?
  4. Beat your counterpart to the punch. If they even begin to purse their lips the intent of saying the dreaded phrase, blurt out, “what’s up,” first. This way, all the pressure to answer is put on them.
  5. If all else fails, resort to the cliche, “nothing, you?” It is simple enough so they know you haven’t overanalyzed the question, vague enough to keep your persona a little mysterious, and open-ended enough to leave your newly enticed opponent wondering.