I’m Fine Thank You

As I did not grow-up here and I came from a different culture, there is one question that I still don’t know how to answer truthfully even after two decades of being in the US.  I am being asked this question several times a day too. I don’t think many people answer this question right as well. And it is a question that we may be asking people to lie.

You might be thinking it must be some kind of a difficult question or a complicated one. What is the question?

The question is the run-of-the-mill, perfunctory “How are you?”

Yes, we are being asked “How are you” several times a day. When we walk down the street, or down the hallway, or as we enter our workplace, or just about anywhere, people greet us with “How are you?”

I know most of the times we ask this question just to be polite. I know as well that there’s some variances in the question in some parts of the country, like “how ‘s it going” or “what’s up” or “howdy” or “hey’all.”

When I was still living in New York City, I don’t think people ask “how are you” that often, or greet that much for that matter. Or perhaps they just mind their own business. I would admit though that since I moved to the Midwest, I am being asked this question more everyday, even by people who I don’t know.

So how do you answer this question?

Do you answer also with the perfunctory “good” or “fine?” Or maybe you are really doing well so you can answer “great!” Or do you give a more honest answer, like “not good” if you’re really not feeling fine. But I don’t think people are expecting an answer different from “I’m good.” Besides we don’t want to burden other people of our own problems, right?

What would happen if a person whom you barely know, would answer you “I feel awful,” or “I feel bad.” You may think they are whiny or a grouch. But you asked them “how are you,” and they just gave you a truthful answer. Perhaps if you really don’t want to know, then don’t ask.

This is the reason, I really don’t ask this perfunctory question that much. If I want to greet someone, or be polite, or exchange pleasantries, I greet them with “good morning,” or “good afternoon,” or “good evening.” Though I may be lying with that greeting too, as it may not be really a “good” morning or evening. But at least I’m not forcing anybody to say “I’m good” when they may not be feeling good.

However due to my work, I still ask this question every day. But when I ask this question to my patients, especially in the hospital, I expect them to give me an honest answer. In fact I would be surprise if they say “I’m fine.” For if they are fine, they would not be seeing a doctor in the hospital in the first place.

So I can truthfully say that when I asked this question, I really meant to know how you are doing.

Or perhaps I am just so cynical, thinking people ask “how are you” or “how do you do” without really meaning it. Maybe they really do care to know how you feel.

In the song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, it says:

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky,
Are also on the faces of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands saying, “How do you do?”
But they’re really saying, “I love you.”…….

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Maybe I got it all wrong. And maybe this is really a wonderful world.

Foul Mouth

I would like to start this post with this presupposition: It is not our fault.

As a nation, we Filipinos pride ourselves that we are an English-speaking people. Or at least we think we are. Even though English is not our primary language.

But I know when we speak, we Filipinos are misunderstood sometimes. Alright, many times. And we have even been mocked for our English diction. But hear us out first.

In our mother tongue, we enunciate our vowels in only one way. Like e is always eh, and no other way it is pronounced. We don’t differentiate into short e, or long e, or short i.

Though some regions in the Philippines tend to interchange the pronunciation of e and i, but that’s another subject of its own.

Of course there are other quirky mistakes that we Filipinos are prone to make when we talk in English, like interchanging he and she, or his and her. Sorry if we confuse you, and you wonder if the person we are talking about suddenly got a sex transplant. But this is due to the fact that in our language our pronoun has no gender. It is the same for male or female.

Regarding our queer pronunciation, not too long ago, a friend of ours told us that when she first arrived here in the US, while they were driving in the midst of hundreds of acres of Iowa farm lands, she commented:

“I did not know that there are sheep here.”

She got a funny look and was told, “Honey, we are in a land lot. The ocean is thousands of miles away. We don’t have ships here.”

Learning to distinctively pronounce between a short i and a long e as ee when we speak in English is something we need to familiarize with. There’s nothing akin to this in our native language.

Consider this example:

What we said: There are lots of beautiful beaches in the Philippines.

What they heard: There are lots of beautiful bitches in the Philippines.

Can you imagine the glaring stares we got and the misconceptions we caused, stating a fact that we are proud of. Or so we thought.

Back to our friend here in Iowa, one day while at home, shortly from her arrival from the Philippines, she asked, “Where can I find clean (bed) sheet.”

To this she was told that there was no such thing. That’s not clean at all!

They must have thought she has a foul mouth or just plain crazy. By now, you must have deduced what they thought they heard.

Holy clean sh*t!

I Don’t Understand English

The English language remains strange to me. Aside from my difficulty in understanding correct grammar, and me using “he” when I mean “she” and vice versa (apparently it’s a Filipino thing?), there are other things in this language that I just don’t have a clue. Here are some case in point:

awe: feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder

some: at least a small amount or number

full: not lacking; complete

I know that full is much more than some; but why is awesome so much better than awful?

park: bring a vehicle to a halt and leave it temporarily

drive: operate and control the direction and speed of a motor vehicle

way: a road, track, path, or street for traveling along

Then why the heck we park in the driveway and drive in the parkway?

pretty: attractive

ugly: unpleasant or repulsive

little: small in size, amount, or degree

big: considerable size, extent, or intensity

So what does pretty ugly (eg. She’s pretty ugly.) or little big (eg. This shoe is a little big.) means?

But I have a feeling I’m not alone.

If English made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur” — Doug Larson.