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Q: Suitable Conversational Responses Needed ( No Answer,   6 Comments )
Subject: Suitable Conversational Responses Needed
Category: Relationships and Society > Cultures
Asked by: mycroftholmes-ga
List Price: $2.25
Posted: 02 Sep 2005 09:30 PDT
Expires: 02 Oct 2005 09:30 PDT
Question ID: 563534
I'm new to this country and need appropriate social responses for two questions:

"How's tricks?"
"What's the haps?"

Is "good" an appropriate answer in both cases? Neither? Are more
detailed responses invited, or required?  Are there any INappropriate replies?

Clarification of Question by mycroftholmes-ga on 02 Sep 2005 15:31 PDT
The United States is the country. I don't know where these phrases are from.

Request for Question Clarification by justaskscott-ga on 06 Sep 2005 22:49 PDT
Have you actually heard people in the United States use these phrases?
 Did you hear them from persons born in the United States?  In what
circumstances or locations have you heard these phrases?  (Like some
of the commenters, I'm a native of the United States and have never
heard someone use these phrases, except "How's tricks" in older
movies.  But perhaps some people are using the phrases in the area
where you live.)

Clarification of Question by mycroftholmes-ga on 13 Sep 2005 10:10 PDT
Thanks for the clarification request. I *have* heard these phrases
used in street (well, indoor) conversation, as friendly greetings
between acquaintances -- for an example, in the elevator. The people
using these phases are jovial people, so perhaps there is some angle
of jocularity or amusement I'm missing.  But I'd still like to know an
appropriate response.
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Suitable Conversational Responses Needed
From: research_help-ga on 02 Sep 2005 10:26 PDT
What country are you asking about? I have never heard anyone use
either of the expressions you are asking about in the US.
Subject: Re: Suitable Conversational Responses Needed
From: yellowlion-ga on 02 Sep 2005 11:12 PDT
'How's tricks?' is British. I suspect it is long past its sell-by
date, but since I haven't lived in my own country for 35 years I'm not
too well up in these things.

Never heard the second expression: it presumably also hails from my native land...
Subject: Re: Suitable Conversational Responses Needed
From: jh963-ga on 02 Sep 2005 13:58 PDT
The typical answer to 

"How's tricks?"

"She's fine."

"What's the haps?"

Is vernacular for "What's happening?" but is just a generic greeting. 
(It's not really a question.)

Saying another greeting in response is appropriate.  Like:

Hey, Dude.
How's it hanging?
What's up?
How's it going?

Subject: Re: Suitable Conversational Responses Needed
From: purplecloud-ga on 03 Sep 2005 07:25 PDT
Hi mycroftholmes,
 You mentioned that you are new to this country. This raises the
possibility that English is not your first language. If so, an
important thing you need to know is these two questions are not
formal; they are very informal, bordering
perhaps on the vulgar. If English is not your first language, I would
advise you to avoid using these two questions to start a
conversatio(as well as the "How's it hanging" and "Hey, Dude"
suggested by Jh963 - although I agree with the first part of his/her
answer). Mastering the art of speaking informally (using very informal
language, including using 'four letter words') is very difficult for
non-native speakers to do correctly. You might use it inappropriately
(with the wife of your boss), and not know you have created a major
'faux pas'.  Although there are few textbooks or resource books that
can teach you how to master informal English, you might try "Dangerous
English" by Elizabeth Claire   I'd recommend
asking a native speaker of English to work through the book with you. 
I'd also recommend that you focus on recognizing the informality of
the language, but not try to use it yourself. Most non-native speakers
just don't get the right intonation, and the end result is often

I'd say that the two questions you mentioned are just used as
conversational openers among friendly colleagues. Jh963's advice on
responding to it is fine or to "How's tricks" you could reply "Fine"
or "Not bad" and then say "And you?". This will toss the
conversational 'ball' back to the person who asked you the question.
Often non-native speakers of English drop the conversational ball,
which makes it more difficult than necessary to have a conversation.
They forget that an English conversation has a flow, a rhythmn which
requires each person in the conversation to push the conversation
along. Just saying "Fine" doesn't push the conversation along.

Good luck!



Also know that in American English (and I would assume in British
English, Canadian English, Australian English and New Zealand
English), the conversational topic is open to negotiation: you are not
required to talk about a topic you don't want to talk about. Just
change the topic, and see if the other person wants to talk about it.

For example,  speaker A: "What's the hap?"
              speaker B: "Not much. And you?"
              speaker A: "Our #@$ boss is putting too much pressure on me"
              speaker B: "Sorry to hear that. (pause) Say, did you catch
                          the ballgame on Friday?"

The use of the pause and 'Say' are signals to speaker A that you want
to change the conversational topic.
Subject: Re: Suitable Conversational Responses Needed
From: myoarin-ga on 03 Sep 2005 08:39 PDT
Excellent comment and recommondations, Purplecloud.  
Yes, indeed, it is better for a non-native speaker to avoid slang. 
Everyone will accept it if one seems a little formal, but few will
tell one that something one just said was inappropriate, politely
letting it pass, maybe to be repeated in more sensitive company.
But Mycroft  - Sherlock's more astute brother -  has already surmised
that, as his question here confirms.  :)
Subject: Re: Suitable Conversational Responses Needed
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 06 Sep 2005 22:36 PDT
As a native speaker of American English, I recognize "How's tricks?"
but never hear anyone say it.  From what little I know of street
slang, I can figure out "What's the haps?" but, again, I never hear it

If I were addressed with one of these remarks, I would consider either
a formal or an informal response appropriate.

Formal:  "I beg your pardon?"
Informal:  "Hmmm?"


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