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I keep seeing people say "How is X", where X is the name of a game or a band. I think the implied question is about the entertainment quality of the thing in question, e.g. "Do you find this game fun?", "Are X a good band in your opinion?", "What do you dislike about X?".

Most of the time sentences of this form don't even parse in my head, especially when the name of the game is a character's name them I'm especially confused. e.g. "How is Batman?". (Well, when a mummy and daddy love each other very much...)

I've mainly seen this usage on reddit. The main place I see it is in the gaming related threads, but I don't know if it's localised to either of those two things.

Is this common usage in some part of the world or is it localised to the game playing community on a certain internet forum? Does anyone know how long has it been going on for? Do and of you personally use this form?

Some reddit links hastily obtained via google:

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  • “How’s his hamburger, Hubert?” ~ “How’s Horatio, Henrietta?”
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 20:35
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    ... or even "How are you?" Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 20:51
  • @tchrist, I've never heard "How’s his hamburger, Hubert?". It doesn't even make sense to me. "How’s your hamburger, Hubert?", does. (As does "How are you (doing)?", @Scott). I understand "How is Herbert's hamburger?" - do those things mean the same to you?
    – Pod
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 21:03
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    I don't understand how someone with your command of English can ask such an inane question. These are obviously people asking others for their impressions and comparing notes. "How's so-and-so in concert?" "How's so-and-so live?" "How's such-and-such a game?" I don't get your question.
    – CocoPop
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 1:27
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    Pod, how, like many words, has multiple shades of meaning. One of them is for asking about the quality of something. ("How was your lunch?") How long have people been using how like this? I don't know, but I would bet it goes back many hundreds of years to the beginnings of English. So you might as well get used to it.
    – Dangph
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 2:33

1 Answer 1

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I am surprised that you, a native speaker of English, find this use of How is/was X? odd or novel. I have heard it all my life:

How's your sandwich?
How was school today?
How's the new Stones album?
How's college?

And a little Google-booking carries it back to at least the early 19th century, in a very colloquial novel of manners:

How was the Opera that night? We will give the account of it which appeared in the paper of the following day. —Charles White, Almack’s: A Novel, 1827, p. 146

“Pray, how is the tea tonight?” —ibid., p 179

It seems to me this is a standard form for a question inviting a description or assessment. Extending it to new video games is obviously a recent development, but it's hardly novel or localised.

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    To be fair to OP, I would say your two citations are atypical for their time. I didn't find any comparable usages in C19 Google Books for how is/was school/life/London/dinner etc. But yes - you'd think anyone born since 1900 would be perfectly familiar with "How is X?" meaning "What do you think of X" (rather than the "original" sense of "Is X well?"). A distinction in meaning which in the case of my rephrasing would be expressed by the alternative "Is X good?" Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 13:36
  • @FumbleFingers I found four or five before about 1890, and from then on it was so common as to be unremarkable. Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 13:50
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    @StoneyB Fumblefingers I think you've missed the OP's linguistic point. You cant say How is Paris? to mean What is Paris like?, or How is having one's teeth extracted? to mean What is it like having one's teeth extracted? - although you can use those phrases to mean what is your personal experience of X like for you at the moment. How's your school? is not asking about how many pupils, classrooms, A-level passes etc you school has. Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 5:51
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    Sure you can, if you've just introduced it (mine was good how's yours etc). Also, not disputing that you can use it for personal experience. That's the 'right context'. Without this though it's problematic. If you've never been there I can't say How's Cambridge University to you as a substitute for What's Cambridge University like?. Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 13:12
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    @Araucaria As I said, it "invites a description or assessment", which may be a report of your subjective experience but may also be a report of your objective knowledge. "Hmm...tech's sagging this morning. Joyce, how's aerospace?" Keeping this on-topic, I don't see the uses OP cites as either unusual or novel. Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 13:35

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