I was reading a book ("The Telephone" by Kornie Chukovsky) and came across the expression "where do you happen to be?". Here is the context:

My telephone rang.
A: "Hello, who's speaking?"
B: "The Elephant."

A: "Oh, where do you happen to be?"
B: "Jungle-Town, Camel-Street, 3."

A: "What do you want?"
B: "Some chocolate, sweet, to give my sonnie a bit of a treat."

As far as I can understand "where do you happen to be?" seems to be something similar to "where are you?". What does "where do you happen to be?" really mean?
What's the difference between "where do you happen to be?" and "where are you?" ?


This does just mean "Where are you?"

You might ask "Where do you happen to be?" as a tentative and so polite way of asking "where are you?" Direct questions can seem rude, but rephrasing can make them more polite.

The quoted dialogue is very strange, and surreal. I can't imagine what "The Elephant" means. Is it a code name? The questioner jumps from tentative to direct questions. The answers seem to be rhyming. This makes me think that this is not meant to be natural speaking, but a piece of poetry. In which case, the reason for the "Where do you happen to be?" might be just because it fits the poetry better.

  • It sounds like a children's book to me. Dec 18 '19 at 9:15
  • Perhaps, but one written in verse, in which case the needs of the poetry and rhyme need to be met.
    – James K
    Dec 18 '19 at 10:01
  • 1
    I wasn't contradicting you. In fact, the book appears to be a translation from the Russian of a children's book in verse. Presumably the slightly odd choice of words is to preserve the metre of the original. Dec 18 '19 at 13:11
  • Yes. The book is a children's book. The dialogue is written in a way that can rhyme. Dec 18 '19 at 22:16

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