The Question of Well Being

You alright? I was taken aback by the question. Because of the surprise element, the response was not immediate. After recovering, I mumbled an answer which assured there was nothing to worry. On afterthought, my mumbling would have cemented the fact there was something wrong with me. I was hoping to put this behind me when someone else asked me the same question.

Forgive me for propelling you right into the action. Let me take a breath and give you the context. I had moved to the United Kingdom from France. Living in Paris versus Living in Reading. I feel terribly wrong by saying this sentence aloud. Those two life experiences are incomparable. So I am not going to lend the sentence any legitimacy by explaining the differences. I was disappointed. While I wallowed in self-doubt and anger, people would greet me with the "alright" question.

The word alright is pronounced in a musical way. The letters l and r are joined yet different. You can't differentiate the two, yet you can. There is giant slide down when the speaker crosses the letter a to the rest of the word and a reverse trend while finishing off at the letter t. While playing this word endlessly in your mind, you may do away with the husky voice. There is nothing sexy in this pronouncement unless you have a thing for words and husky voices.

Back in those days when I was acclimatizing with the changes in my life, the question of being alright used to bother me. These were all acquaintances. How could they get so personal? Was I so discontent with the changes that the unhappiness was so evident on my face? Like most of my worries in my life, this newfound one was also misplaced. It was the British way of asking my well being. How are you? They could have asked me the same in a much simpler way. But they chose a complicated and personal. At least for a non-native English speaker like me.

I couldn't help compare it with French equivalent. Ça va? In other words, how is it going? Look at the ambiguity of the statement. It is a conversation starter. You can answer with the non-committal mirror image. Ça va which means it is going. The end begs a start often a restart or a reboot. Now compare this with "You alright?". Should I kick start my laments? Should I hastily say okay and retreat? I am confused.

While you ponder the point, let me sign off by asking you this seemingly simple question. You alright?

Photo Courtesy: Angelo Domini Tags: British Lessons



  1. I guess that is a phatic communion of some sort. My French was an REM level sleep from which I awoke with a start, missing the steps altogether. I can still mumble though, je sui bien...


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