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…
“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.”