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New in the Glossary of Confusing Words: What's Up

  • Jessica Stahl

dictionary and thesaurus
dictionary and thesaurus
Just to let you all know, the regular Monday Glossary of Confusing Words posts are a summer feature, for while our bloggers are on vacation. We'll keep doing it for a couple more weeks and then go on hiatus for a while, so get your words in now. If we don't get to your word, we'll save it up until the next vacation time, I promise. We're always willing to do words that are specifically related to applying for college/university though, so keep those coming throughout the school year.

Today's word: What's up?

When someone asks you "what's up?," they are asking you what's going on in your life, either in general or at that specific moment. It's pretty informal, and not to be used in business situations.

There are two basic ways "what's up?" is used in conversation:

1) As a very informal pleasantry. In this case, it would be the equivalent of "what's new?" or even "how are you?" and is asking whether anything is going on in your life.

A typical online chat could start something like this (I've had this exact conversation many times):

"Hey"

"Hey. What's up?"

"Not much. You?"

"Not too much. How are things?"


2) To find out what someone is doing or what they need at that moment. This would be the equivalent of either "what are you doing?," "what's happening?" or "can I help you?"

Example 1:

"Hey, I have a question."

"What's up?

"I was wondering if..."

Example 2:

"You seem sort of sad."

"Yeah, I am."

"What's up?"

Here are a few famous uses of the phrase "what's up?" in American pop culture:

What's Up by Four Non Blondes


Wazzup Budweiser commercial


The Roxbury guys from Saturday Night Live


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