I was in a fashion shop for some clothing, and a man in the same shop suddenly came to ask me if I could help him fill in a short questionnaire. Because I didn't expect such thing to happen in a fashion shop, I was surprised and said this without thinking:

what's up

Is it impolite to say what's up when someone asks you to help?


No, I don't think it's impolite. For instance:

"Excuse me, can you help me please?"

"Sure - what's up?" - seems like a polite enough way to ask what the problem is, although certainly very informal.

But as a response to someone asking you to fill out a questionnaire, it doesn't seem to make much sense. It seems like your response just needed to be yes or no at this point.

  • 2
    I agree that it's a normal, polite, very informal response. I think it's reasonably sensible as a response, though - "what's up?" can mean something like "What's going on?" or "What is the situation?" so it's reasonable as a kind of What's the situation with this questionnaire? – stangdon Oct 16 '16 at 13:00

If I were greeted by anyone with "What's up?" I would immediately suspect the interrogator of hostile intent. It reeks of suspicion and hostility, or at least purveys the notion that the interrogator assumes the upper hand or a position of superiority. It may be fashionable and in vogue, but it is definitely not friendly. I would be tempted to respond with "Mind your own damned business!" Sadly a similar form, also unfriendly, used to be in fashion, was, "What's the problem?" whenever approaching the likes of a customer service situation, also nasty and unnecessary and assumes a superior status. Both convey a gross lack of respect and are not acceptable.

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    While they may ‘both convey a gross lack of respect’ in a very formal context, that’s certainly not true in an informal one. – Fivesideddice Feb 20 at 13:10

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