English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I can guess it probably means "what's happening", or "what's up". Am I right? I am curious where this phrase comes from and how to use it properly.

share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Wiktionary says:


what's shaking

  1. (slang) what is happening?

The phrase is Afro-American in origin, from the 1950s. From 1970's Black Slang: a Dictionary of Afro-American talk By Clarence Major:

Shaking: (1950's) same as Happening; example, "What's shaking?"

Here's some published uses from the 1950s.

From Reports of cases determined in the courts of appeal of the state of California, 1957:

Reports of cases determined in the courts of appeal of the state of California

From Sig Byrd's Houston by Sigman Byrd, 1955:

Sig Byrd's Houston

There's also this from 1931, it could be related but it's probably not:

"They've found you on the beach, that's what you hear, what's shaking your shoulder. Your heart's still beating. You've got time to go back, to live, to find someone else than Sue. Sue's meeting John on Thursday. Go back to the beach.

Anyway, as to how to use What's shaking?, the excellently titled Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang (1996) gives some variations:

Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang

share|improve this answer
my gf asked me that when I took off my underwear. – Anderson Silva Jul 7 '11 at 14:19

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.