Published: 05th October 2019
English Blues: Here's how 'Howdy' originated
What is the meaning of the phrase ‘How do you do’? Did you know that it used to be a greeting and not a question?
The word ‘howdy’ dominated mainstream and social media in India a few days ago. The search for the word in Google resulted in about 5,22,00,000 results and the search for the term ‘Howdy Modi’ yielded about 2,85,00,000 results. Here are headlines from different newspapers:
- Howdy Modi: PM leaves Houston spellbound (indiatoday.in)
- In coup for Modi, Trump will join Indian prime minister at US rally (washingtonpost.com)
The popularity of the term has prompted a couple of readers to send me a request to discuss the term in the column. ‘Howdy’, an American English term, is an informal way of saying ‘hello’. It originates from the phrase ‘How d’ye do’ or ‘How do you do’. Look at these examples:
- Howdy, guys! Hope you are doing good.
- Howdy, young people! Nice to see you here.
What is the meaning of the phrase ‘How do you do’? It used to be a greeting and not a question. It is not a question about one’s health or well-being. Three things must be stated here. First, it is an outdated greeting. Second, it is treated as a question. Third, when used as a question, it can get varied responses. Look at this example:
A: How do you do?
B: Fine, and you?
Every year, standard dictionaries add many new words to their lexicon and contribute to the growth of the English language. Recently, Merriam-Webster Dictionary added 533 new words to the dictionary. My favourites are some informal truncations and portmanteaus. A portmanteau word is a word blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others. Here are some of the newly added short words and portmanteaus:
vacay: a shortening of vacation
sesh: a shortening of session
inspo: a shortening of inspiration
solopreneur: a combination of ‘solo’ and ‘entrepreneur’
fabulosity: a combination of ‘fabulous’ and ‘quality’
The word ‘they’ is used with a new sense. It is used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is not known. The use of its corresponding reflexive pronoun ‘themself’ has increased these days. Examples:
- If any student is interested in taking part in the competition, they must meet me.
- Each child should be trained to help themself.
After Donald Trump became the President of the US, the term ‘deep state’ is being widely used. What does it mean? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is an ‘alleged secret governmental network operating extralegally’. It refers to people who are believed to be involved in the secret manipulation of the governmental policy. In the US, the term has quite a significant meaning and is described as “a group of plotting civil servants with a secret — malevolent — agenda”.
- Some writers describe RSS as India’s deep state.
- Is ISI Pakistan’s deep state agency?