Frequently asked question

Last night, I went out for dinner with a Spanish friend, and we discovered that we had both been thinking about the same thing that afternoon: everyday responses in Spanish and Catalan to the question, ‘How’s it going?’

In Spanish, I often hear, ‘Vamos tirando’, which taken literally means something like ‘pulling’ in English. I have seen it translated, more appropriately, as ‘muddling through’ or even ‘struggling along’. Thinking about where the phrase originates, we decided it probably comes from times when horse-drawn carts were used, and people’s daily work lives consisted of transporting (or quite literally pulling) cartloads of produce from one destination to another. In Spanish, ‘Vamos tirando’ has a somewhat weighty feel about it, and those who say it give the impression that they find life a bit grueling.

The equivalent response to, ‘How are you?’ in Catalan is, ‘Anar fent’, which literally means ‘doing’ in English. We both commented on how the Catalan ‘anar fent’ has a more positive feel about it´, or at least denotes a more practical outlook. Doing is action, getting on with things, building and progressing. All in all, a less grueling vision of everyday life.

When asked, ‘How’s it going?’ in the UK, I would almost invariably answer, ‘Yeah, good thanks’. I am not sure it meant that my everyday outlook was more positive or if it was just a polite response that didn’t give much away, the legacy of a stiff upper lip culture perhaps. How do you respond to this frequently asked question?