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How are you today?

Posted by ESC on May 27, 2004

In Reply to: A little trouble posted by Henry on May 27, 2004

: : : : : Hi,
: : : : : I have a confusion with a phrase " Not too Bad" heavily used by my peer in the office. English is his second language as mine but he says that when he uses this it mean good. I have a different opinion I think this means he is nott that bad, but still BAD????

: : : : : Can anyone please let me know what exatly it means when one says " I am not too bad!"

: : : : : Thanks and Regards,
: : : : : Khan

: : : : to me, a native English speaker, it implies something marginally better than 'bad'; something that is 'reasonable', 'up to the job', but not much more than that - just about OK, or very slightly better.

: : : It depends on how it is said. "Not too bad!" with a tone of admiration could mean "very good."

: : If somebody told me my work was "not too bad", meaning "good" by their tone of admiration, I might take it as condescending, or that their expectations were not very high to begin with. I'd prefer "not too shabby", which I think is more genuine.

: The English are notorious for understatement. Not too bad would commonly mean very good. This habit can lead to confusion with other English-speaking people. In the Second World War, a party of soldiers were heavily outnumbered and reported that they were "in a little trouble". The message was received by an American radio operator who took it literally and did not recognise their need for assistance.

Pasting in Khan's additional question:

: I was happy with the response from James, but now it seems that this phrase also depends upon the tone of voice or gesture of the person saying. Please correct me if I am wrong. If someone says "Not too bad" in a normal mood replying "How are you" that means he is slightly better than bad, and if someone is saying this after looking at the project report of his/her junior with the tone of admiration then it mean "very good"...

Thanks and Regards,

If you are inquiring about someone's health, etc., and he says, "Not too bad," it would mean "OK." Not great but not horrible. When someone asks me I always say, "Fair to middlin'."