In my native language, there is a singe word to say to someone who apparently are doing something they never did before, or being in state they never were before. Like:

Mr. X had always been late. But today he came on time.

Mr. Y said, "[...], you're always late before."


Ms. A had never kept in touch with Mr. B. One day she dropped him a line all of a sudden.

Mr. B said, "[...]. What makes you call me? I thought you'd forgotten we're friends."


A student had always been so much lazy. But one day he finished all of his homework and listened to the teacher during the whole class.

So the teacher said, "[...]. You're being diligent. You usually are not."

I know that this condition is described by means as in you are being diligent, or you're not usually like this.. Or perhaps this is not you.?

But I need an expression for that (one-word expression, if possible), and I can only think of these:

  • How odd!
  • For the first time.
  • What happened? (Or what's happening?)
  • Hey, is this really you?

Well, I don't think I'm doing this right.

P.S.: What we say to this person (according to my mother tongue, Indonesian): Tumben!.

P.P.S.: I'm looking for an insinuating or joking expression, not swear-word interjections like the ones in the suggested possible duplicate.

  • Which word in your language did you have in mind?
    – IQAndreas
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 14:48
  • My mother tongue is Indonesian, we say, Tumben!. I don't know if there is an English word for that.
    – Safira
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 14:51
  • possible duplicate of What are some old-world alternatives or precursors to 'WTF' (expressions of frustration or surprise)?. It's a bit "dated" today, but the explanation "Well I never!" is a close match to OP's precise sense. Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 16:20
  • @FumbleFingers: Why is it Will I never!? How's that possibly a close match to my sense?
    – Safira
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 21:25
  • @Safira: It's "Well I never!" Which is effectively short for something like "I never saw [or heard of] such a thing before in my life!" There probably isn't any idiomatic word/expression in English for "He never did such a thing before!", because the whole point of the exclamation is to indicate surprise on the part of the speaker. Although it's getting a bit "dated", in the contexts you have cited, "Well I never!" or an equivalent is what a native would say (it's more a matter of "I am surprised!", rather than "You are surprising!"). Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 21:36

5 Answers 5


A person acting against their perceived tendency is behaving uncharacteristically. When the person's behavior is undesirable we may say they are not themselves. But the given examples are of behavior desirable to the speaker, and a phrase that might be used is what a pleasant surprise! But this phrase has other uses; it's not only for when a person behaves uncharacteristically.

Another phrase that focuses more on the person: If the speaker desires an explanation for the unexpected but desirable behavior, they may get their answer by (humorously and informally) asking the other person Are you feeling ok? The speaker may also humorously refer to the emotions the desired behavior promoted in them with I'm shocked or I'm touched. Some speakers jokingly challenge their senses with Do my eyes [ears, for the phone call] deceive me? or reality with Can it be (true)? Others joke about the identity of the other person with Who are you, and what have you done with Mr. X?

If the person has changed from undesirable behavior to desirable, the speaker might ask Why the change of heart? The speaker may further remark that the change is welcome.

As shown we have many expressions for unexpected behavior in a person, but I can think of no one-word interjection used strictly in this context.

  • +1. This is the answer I need. Perfectly match to my sense. :)
    – Safira
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 21:30

Somewhat similar to dingo_dan's uncharacteristically, the phrase out of character is often used to mean

not typical of the apparent character of a person or thing


I cannot think of one word that would fit, but a short expression that may fit in certain situtations is What a surprise! If you are speaking narratively, you can use To my surprise...

Google Translate gives an additional multi-word suggestion, Oddly enough...


I know this question is old, but it was promoted to me and I think it's worth commenting that English has an idiom for this: turn over a new leaf

Mr. X, you've turned over a new leaf!


Looking at your examples, I might very well simply make that one word "wow". For example:

Mr. Y said, "Wow, you've always been late before."`

This is a bit of a cheat though because "wow" doesn't mean "uncharacteristically": it is an interjection indicating surprise at something that has happened. There are many other interjections that can indicate surprise; "wow" is just the one that came to mind and has the virtue of being very short and widely understood.

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