Monday, June 4, 2007

Not Too Bad - Not Sri Lankan then!

I've blogged about this before, but it's sooo been getting on my nerves in recent months. It's the answer to the "How are you?" question, the answer that goes:

"I'm not too bad"

I think it's a common response in England, or the UK, to being asked how we are. I really can't imagine that there are many simple statements that actually portray more of a negative feeling than this one. As the song goes, please don't let me be misunderstood. I wouldn't want you to think I'm some kind of white toothed, grinning infectiously and motivating everyone type of chap, or worse still, an American. But it's such a negative statement, it's as if the utterrer of the words normally lives a crap life but, on this rare occasion, their life is just about bearable. Normally on a different day they would be on the verge of suicide but today, things are just that little bit better.

Why so negative? Why so despondent? Or is it just a stock answer to a stock question, neither of which requires any semblance of thought to be said, or asked.

Whenever I ask someone how they are I actually mean it I'd rather get a genuine response, one that tells me about the chap's latest woes and how the boil on his right arse cheek still hasn't cleared up, or even better, I like to hear that life is pretty peachy, that things are great because his business is doing particularly well or his cat has just won the lottery. In return, when a fellow asks me how I am I invariably say that I'm good, that things are bright and positive. Or, on a bad day I might actually say that I'm feeling a bit down, that I'm a bit tired or whatever the truth is. I figure that most people would prefer to hear that kind of truthfulness than "not bad thanks, how are you?"

But tell me please. Is it the English or is it just people in general?

I sometimes feel so weighed down when people sigh about their life, they are oh so busy, oh so tired, oh so carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. And it seems to be here, in the UK. When I meet people in Sri Lanka, or in many other parts of the world, they just don't have that air of doom about them.

Is it my imagination? Or do Sri Lankans say this "not too bad" thing too?


Darwin said...

Oh dear, I always say "not too bad" when asked how I am. It's genuinely the truth. If things were good, I'd say "yeah I'm good thanks", if things were rubbish I'd say "well everything is crap actually" but more often than not, life, for me at least, is always "not too bad", and to me that's a GOOD thing. Of course I'd like reality to be where I can always answer with a "I'm great thanks!" but that's hardly ever the case and I'll settle for a neutral "not too bad" instead. Glass half empty and all that...

Darwin said...

Oh, and I forgot to add, the interesting thing is that I didn't use to say "not too bad" when I was in SL. It's something that's grown on me of late, maybe since being here 5yrs+ now. Does that mean I've picked up the lingo OR the depressive British outlook sapped my more cheery Sri Lankan attitude hmmm?:)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

That's terrible news all round Darwin - You're becoming a Brit in Lingo and behaviour. Even though you didn't know the difference between a Pikey and a Chav!

Anonymous said...

Rhythmic, you say "not too bad " is the worst you've heard.

How about "Can be better".

I might be a complete prick but if somebody says "I'm great" or "couldn't be better" it'll actually piss me off.

I think any response less than 7 words , for this question, is bad.


Beatrice Hannah said...

When my colleagues say "How" to me as I come to work I can reply ohey innewa, or honding innewa or saniping innewa, (sorry not sure how to write sinhala in english) which as far as I can tell means just living, good or bursting with health. So yes us brits are pretty dour by comparison! xxx Bea