I may, dear reader, have detected one of those almost imperceptible changes in language that form part of its relentless movement. It’s a bit like being able to break down a movie into the 24 stills per second and grasping one of the stills as a discrete moment in time. Or, I might not have.

When I first moved to the Emerald Isle, back in the late 1990’s, greetings were a bit like they were in the US. People would say hello by asking you how you are without ever expecting a response. Where Americans say ‘what’s up?’, Irish might say ‘How are things?’ Contrast this with the German equivalent ‘Was gibt’s?’ – what’s up? – and its answer ‘Nichts Besonderes’ – nothing special – where our Teutonic friends are generally expecting a response and perhaps an ‘Und dir/ihnen? – and you?

The interesting thing about living in Dublin was that you would often hear a compound rhetorical question, where someone quite genuinely, and without any hint of irony, might say,’Morning, how are you, how are things, are you well?’ The first time this happened to me I had to ask which question they wanted answering first. Even then folk would look at you funny if you said ‘I’m pretty good thanks, and how are you?’

Over the last six months I’ve noticed kids actually answering the greeting-question, which I’ve never observed before, hence my opening paragraph which you’re probably thinking I might have slightly oversold. So now, when you greet friends of your kids with a ‘Howya?’ you tend to hear ‘fine’, ‘fine, thanks’, ‘I’m good’. I’m not saying I’m disinterested in their general wellbeing, rather that I’m not ready for them to provide an answer to what is a ‘hello’. This takes me back to my days of learning German when someone would ask ‘wie geht’s? – how’s it going? – and I would answer ‘ja’, or yes. Not what they were expecting.

So there you have it, the Irish greeting is now not a greeting, it’s a question, and one that should be answered.

You heard it here first. And probably last.

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