Wherever I go in the English speaking world someone will say something in words that are completely familiar but leave me scratching my head wondering "What the hell is he talking about?"

Take the expression "What's up?"

The traditional answers are often one of several that have been easy to wrap my head around? There's the old ubiquitous NY evasive favorite, answer a question with a question, "Ey! What's up?" Which I always feel is an invitation to ask no further. Also in "ask no further" category are "Fine" "Good" "How you doin'?", and "Not bad."

The favored new response is "It's all good". When I first heard it I innocently took it as an affirmation that everything was "swell". But later it occurred to me it could mean just the opposite like when it is preceded by actual facts that I assumed were not good . . . "I lost my job". . . "My wallet is missing" . . . "My new car was hit by a truck driven by an uninsured driver" . . . followed by "but it's all good".

For several months I flowed with it and let it slide. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I stupidly asked someone why after a litany of personal tragedy, he was compelled to say "it's all good"? The reply was one of anguished disbelief that turned into curious incredulity that turned into a big smile from which came "You're joking, right?" Thankfully I am a big fan of Ludwig and his Philosophy of Language, and have taken his notion that language derives it's meaning from use, to heart. Bolstered by the W-man I was enabled to respond in the appropriate way which was a confident "right".

Which reminds me of joke from another era, maybe Ludwig even knew it, about an elderly immigrant, who is hit by a car on New York's upper west side. He is lying in the middle of the street when a Good Samaritan who has witnessed the accident runs over to him, takes his own overcoat off and quickly places it under the man's head. "Are you comfortable?" the reclining man is asked.

His reply, "I make a living."

Copyright © 2009 Marc Blatte author of Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed: A Novel

Author Bio
Marc Blatte, author of Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed: A Novel, a native and longtime resident of New York City, grew up in the Bronx, played baseball in the Roy Campanella Little League and was a protege of the bestselling author Ed McBain.

After a brief stint west of the Hudson at Kenyon College, Marc returned to the city that never sleeps to become a wunderkind of the songwriting industry, dubbed by legendary record producer Clive Davis as one of the "fortunate ones." He has composed material for major stars, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for best R&B Song.

He has shaken Joe Frazier's hand at Small's Paradise, danced with Sherry Lansing, fixed Debbie Harry's sink, met Henry Kissinger, and had an unexpected visit from the Wu Tang Clan. He has worked as a golf caddy, Rotor Rooter man, tenement superintendent, keyboard player in a lounge band, was a hip-hop white boy pioneer record producer . . . and lived to tell.

The father of three daughters, Marc and his wife Jeanne divide their time between New York and Nicaragua. He is currently at work on his next mystery featuring Black Sallie Blue Eyes.

Author's Bio: 

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