egregious word play

It’s interesting the things that we pick up from others when we spend enough time with them – little mannerisms, phrases and perhaps even perspectives and attitudes.

A colleague of mine (MM) some time ago mentioned that she’s started asking “how’s things?” as an alternative to “how are you?” because she’s heard me say it so much. I hadn’t even realised I said it so much until she mentioned it, nor did I realise it’s grammatically incorrect until just now when I wrote it out. Well, not like anyone ever questioned my question before anyway…

I suppose I ask it in preference to “how are you?” because people tend to give stock standard answers to this very frequently asked question. And I suppose you could argue that people could give the same standard “good, thanks” response to “how’s things?” but quite often I’ll get a more considered response. Not, like, massively longer or anything, but the question, being less common and not as expected, seems to make people pause and think, even if only very briefly.

Maybe it’s that people feel more comfortable saying “things” are hectic than saying that they, themselves, are stressed. That’s my theory, anyway. I mean, you can be “ok” even though everything around you is chaos…

I also like to ask “how’s things?” because I feel like it opens up the conversation to allow the other person to talk about what’s going on in their day/lives, rather than just tell me that they’ve been “well”.

On the subject/tangent of positive adjectives, it also seems like I’ve brought the word “excellent” into common usage too. I think I just got sick of using the word “great” for everything because it’s overused and also sounds very sarcastic (even when it’s not meant to be). Some people say “excellent” still sounds sarcastic, but I’m sticking with it. I will concede, however, that maybe I’m just noticing the word “excellent” being used more because I’m using that word more.

Well, I’ve picked up phrases from other people too.

I used to work with a scientist (DT) who would say “Santa Maria” as an alternative to your standard exclamations of frustration, shock and whatever other situations warrant the use of expletives. Since working with him, “Santa Maria” has become my exclamation of choice (although I tend to mutter it under my breath rather than actually exclaim it).

Similarly, a pharmacist I work with (LN) uses “what the flip” in place of the other WTF, which, although our workplace is not the most decorous, is at least more professionally acceptable. I’ve noticed that “flip” has been taken up by others in the workplace, but my preference is still for “Santa Maria” when it comes to swearing substitutes.

Collectively, we’ve learnt to not add “good” to “morning” when we greet our more pessimistic colleagues at the start of the day. Smiling and enthusiasm optional. One colleague (CZ) has also made the phrase “that’s unfortunate” a rather handy response for a variety of situations (including coming to work in the morning).

(Just a side note: I actually work with really great people (“great” in this context is not sarcastic). It’s just that we have very particular humour, I suppose…)

One pharmacist (JD) used to like adding the word “thoroughly” here and there for emphasis, but I feel like that has dropped off a bit. He is, however, still trying to bring “defenestrate” into common usage. I’d use it more if I had reason to. He had more success with “egregious” (a much more versatile word, especially considering it has two, completely opposite meanings).

For a while we also tried bringing back “frobly-mobly”, which the internet told us meant “neither well nor unwell”, but that (sadly) didn’t last too long. I suppose we didn’t have enough chances to use it, since things are usually “not terrible” or terrible…


8 thoughts on “egregious word play

  1. I notice I do this a lot too. Even with the way you react to things.

    I find that sometimes when the question of “how’s things” is raised, it’s not the right context to actually talk in depth, even if you wanted to.

  2. I’ve noticed that I pick up words/phrases from people.

    I also say “how’s things?” (I like it for the same reason you do) and “excellent” and “that’s unfortunate”. I love the word defenestrate and wish I had reason to use it more often, but then part of the charm is it’s such a ridiculous thing to have a single word for. Perhaps if there were more opportunity to use it, it would appeal less.

    • I dunno.. “defenestrate” seems to be making a bit of a resurgence at my work now. Not sure how much it’d have to be thrown around before it’s no longer amusing.

  3. I believe when you (as in you personally) ask “How’s things?” you’re genuinely interested in the response which people, some anyway, probably pick up on.

  4. Love Santa Maria! Maybe I could put defenstrate to use when I argue with my husband, such as I am so annoyed I could defenstrate you. Might he think I would have gone mad?
    Sometimes I use How’s tricks? Also grammatically incorrect but it grabs the attention.

    • Hahaha or something like “Santa Maria! If you don’t stop, I’ll defenestrate you”.
      Perhaps it’ll be strange enough to defuse the situation 😉

      I might try out “how’s tricks” and other variations. Mix it up a bit

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