I’m Good

Shortly after I moved here, I adopted the American way of answering ‘How are you?’ with ‘I’m good!’ In Ireland, the reply is ‘I’m grand,’ or more often, in our morose way, ‘Not too bad, thanks.’ The ungrammatical chirpiness of ‘I’m good!’ appealed to me as an alternative.

I realized recently that when I was a child, visiting adults always asked sternly ‘Are you good?’ They were testing the heft of our moral fibre, waiting for a parent to play along with tales of recent bad deeds. The benign December version was ‘Is Santy coming?’—for of course, it went without saying he would visit only if you were good.

This Victorian custom has fallen out of favor. But it makes me wonder if in fact I’m answering a question that my American friends are not asking, the great unspoken Are You Good? Yes! Yes! I’m good!