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What exactly does how do you do mean? I'm ashamed to admit I say it and I don't quite know what it means. I'm also very curious to know, and I suppose this is a question of opinion, when did folks stop saying it? When did "how do you do" meet it's demise within society? I suppose whenever it was it must have had a precipitious decline of usage on account of I personally don't know anyone, besides myself, who says it today; however, I know there must be folks who still say it.

Any thoughts?

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Some older Scots I know say "How do you be?" as well. –  d'alar'cop Mar 14 at 10:01
    
Can you try to separate the question(s) from the narrative, so we know what to answer? Also, the title! –  Kris Mar 14 at 11:47
    
Yes, pardon me! I've edited the question. –  User53019 Mar 14 at 15:06

4 Answers 4

"How do you do" is a simple greeting or salutation.

how do you do — a polite greeting that you can use when first introduced to someone

A more modern variant would be, "How are you?" or "Nice to meet you."

As for usage trends, NGrams can give us a small hint at when it began to phase out of style. Note the decline between 1900 and 1920:

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When I was a child in the early fifties I was sent to a slightly posh primary school, to help me avoid the worst excesses of the Norfolk dialect which my agricultural-labouring ancestors had spoken for generations.

We were taught not to say 'nice to meet you', or worse still, when someone said 'How do you do', NEVER to reply 'nicely thank you'. They were supposed to have been very bad form. We were taught to say a polite 'How do you do' in return.

And that is what I still say today!

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It's an alternate construction of the question, "how are you?", or, "how fare you?"

Perhaps, "how do things go?". I also like, "how do you be?" (mentioned by d'alar'cop).

Akin to the German "Wie geht es Ihnen?" (semantically, if not in terms of formality).

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first question, what does it mean ... the Oxford English Dictinoary quotes an explanation from 1340, when it must have been unusual enough to need one...

‘Huet dest þou?’ þet is to zigge: ‘Ysy hou þou art fyeble and brotel.’

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