In Australia, where I live, it is not uncommon for people to describe something as "a bit 'how ya goin''" to mean that it's a little bit dodgy, or not quite right. An example is

"Hey don't you have a new coworker?"

"Yeah, they're a bit 'how ya goin'"

which would mean that the new coworker is maybe a bit weird or not a good fit in the office. I've also heard it to refer to other-than-humans:

"How's the uni course?"

"It's a bit 'how ya goin'"

which would mean that the course isn't going well, but implying that there's a problem with the course itself. I would expect a follow-up closer to "the timetable doesn't fit and the lecturers are terrible" rather than "the course is great but I haven't studied enough".

I had thought it might be connected to/descended from the English phrase "how's your father", but I haven't found any evidence of that and the 'how ya goin' version doesn't have any lewd connotations, as far as I know.

Does anybody know where this phrase comes from, and why it's used in this context? Urban dictionary lists it as Australian slang, but I would love to know if it exists anywhere else. It's a hard one to google, as "origin of phrase 'how are you going'" doesn't yield great results, for obvious reasons.

  • 2
    I'm Australian, too, and would love to know the answer to this! I've always interpreted it somehow sarcastically, like when someone asks "how are you going?" when they know the answer will be negative. But that doesn't help at all :P
    – Loquacity
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 4:50
  • 1
    Without proof, this is what I currently think: In the outback, you don't stop for anyone unless they are in some serious trouble, and then you simply say "how ya going?", leaving the other person to state whether they aren't 100% "tip top" and are a struggling "mug" who broke the promise that "she'll be right". Implies something is in trouble.
    – straya
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 2:03

2 Answers 2


The phrase refers to the social class of the speaker, as in 'How ya goin' is originally something a lower or working class person would say in post WW I Australia. So it means dodgy or unsure of the reliability. However it has become nonsensical because the phrase 'how's it going?' has run around the world like a bushfire since the 1970's. The main theory behind this is that it was used often in Australian surfing culture in the 1960-70's and picked by Californian surfers, by the 1980-90's it was heard in Hollywood movies and from there it 'How's it goin' has become popular slang just about everywhere.

  • If you're suggesting that the greeting / query How's it going? originated in 70s Australia, I don't buy it. Here's a written instance from The New Yorker, 1925. Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 14:46
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers well, that just may be the time difference. When it's 1925 in New York it's already the next day in Australia.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 15:13
  • Specifically, since time in New York is 14 hours behind Sydney, if it's 1925 in NY it's already 925 the next morning in Oz! :) Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 15:29
  • reminds me of the casablanca line “If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?” Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 3:05

It does mean dodgy. I was standing on a picket line outside Stock lands in Townsville hung over and coming down and in describing how I was feeling to another union member, my scattered state led me to describe the way I was feeling as a "bit howya goin'". I have heard it used since to describe something wrong or not up to standard. I will claim ownership, unintentionally, I wasn't very coherent that morning. That strike was in 2014 if I recall correctly.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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