Close

What does 'what's up?' mean? Why does this question confuse the British?

Posted on by Kieran McGovern


What does Babra mean?

An apparently simple question demonstrating Churchill's dictum about two countries divided by a shared language. An American colleague of mine used to greet me every morning with question 'what's up?' to which I would reply 'Nothing' or 'I'm fine.' After the third time it occurred that for her the question was an all purpose greeting whereas to British ears it meant 'what is the problem?' or 'is something wrong?'

So when Bug's Bunny - or Babara Streisand at the other end of the beauty continuum -  ask 'What's up, Doc?' we British assume a sarcasm that may not be intended.