It’s funny how quickly colloquial street insults can change.  We know — “Whatever” is the New “F-You” — but did you know that “Really?” has become the new “Whatever?”

If you watch any mainstream television show, you’ll see “Really?” start popping up as a Goffman-esque response cry to both answers and inquiries — and even odd looks — as exclamation points in disinvested conversations:

Is “Sha!” the New “Duh?” I ask because slang erupts from the mouths of the young and lately I have been seeing and hearing this expression — Sha! — appearing in some blogs as well as being heard on the street. Sha! — is not a word, I only learned how to spell it by watching it appear on blogs — and it appears to be an emotional utterance, or more formally: “A Response Cry” as studied by the great sociologist Erving Goffman:

My ear has become especially attuned to the new “Really?” non-response reply ever since a young adolescent found on the street where I live “accidentally” threw a snowball at me and hit me smack in the back of the head a few weeks ago.

Any question I asked him…

“Why?

“Where do you live?”

“You don’t think I know your mother?”

…all resulted in variations on the “Really?” response, which pleased him to no end and tested my metering of my furious meter.

Sometimes, he used the soft “really?”  Other times, he raised his voice for the capped, “Really?”

Talking about his mamma brought out the guttural, ALL CAPS, “REALLY?” — so I guess I was able to tap into his fury monitor, too.

None of his “reallys?” really answered anything or solved the matter of my throbbing cabeza, but I did discover the implementation of “Really?” seemed to work best for him when all three variants were placed one right after the other in attack mode:

“really? Really? REALLY?”

However, I quickly found the best way to blunt the contemptuous “really” onslaught was to interject a quick, “Don’t think so!” after the second “Really?” — because then he’d get rattled and have to trace back in his mind and start all over again with the first, “really?”

Now, you may think it odd that I spent about 15 minutes of my time on a frozen sidewalk arguing with a kid more than half my age — but for some inert reason, it was a pleasing experience learning about the context of these new response cries — while also trying to sort out the madness of the moment as “REALLY?” was confirmed as a more effective, “Whatever.”

15 Comments

    1. Yes, Gordon, terms of endearment are usually pretty standard and evergreen — while “disses” are always changing and transmogrifying into something else so the haters won’t so easily get pinned for being jerks. Watching it all unfold in real time is pretty wild at times. I admit it was sort of fun to watch the kid respond to me no matter what I said with his snotty “really” forms, and it was a delightful challenge to try to construct sentences that made him look silly like, “You have a big vocabulary, and you never use the word, ‘really.'” and “You really, Really, REALLY mean that?” and “Whatever you say is really what I really said.”

  1. There used to be a segment on Saturday Night Live called “Really?!?! With Seth & Amy” in which the two actors would recount news events and punctuate with a lot of “Really?”

    Here’s one from a transcript from an episode from a few years ago —

    http://snltranscripts.jt.org/06/06rupdate.phtml

    Really, Alberto Gonzalez? You’re not going to resign? Because you really should resign. During the hearings, you said “I don’t remember” or “I don’t recall” over fifty times. Don’t lawyers need to have good memories? I mean, how do you cite precedent? “Your Honor, may I remind you of the cae of What’s-His-Name and the guy with the hat? I’d rather have the guy from “Momento” as a lawyer. My Commodore-64 has more memory than you, and it runs on bong water. Really.

    Amy Poehler: Really. And you say you prepared for this hearing for a month? But you didn’t think to prepare answers for “Why were they fired?” Or: “Who decided they should be fired?” That’s the equivalent of not only getting your name wrong on the SATs, but walking up to the old lady who runs the test and punching her in the face. Really.

    Seth Meyers: And, really, Alberto. Even the most ocnservative senators think you should resign. Sam Brownback thinks you should resign, and he’s so conservative he thinks watching “Will & Grace” gives you AIDS. Really.

    Amy Poehler: Yeah. Really.

    Seth Meyers: Really.

    Amy Poehler: Really. Really, President Bush? You think it went well? Which part? Because the best thing anyone can say about Gonzales’ testimony was that he didn’t use the word “Nappy,” and he remembered to wear pants.

    Seth Meyers: Really. But, Alberto, don’t get too down, because there’s an upside to all of this: by tomorrow, you will forget it ever happened! Really!

    Amy Poehler: Really!

    Seth Meyers: Really!