So the main questions words are who, what, when, where, why, and the outsider, how. “How” is shunned by the other question words because he put his “w” on the wrong end. It turns out on sign-up day two “who”s showed up and “how” panicked and moved his “w”. It worked, but he will never truly belong. Sad, really. Have we learned nothing from the star bellied sneeches? It kind of makes you hate the original “who”. They could have come to some sort of arrangement before hand, but no, “who” just decided ?Screw him. I’m stealing his idea.? See, if I was “how” I would have just grabbed an “I” and been “whio”. “WHIO”! It is just fun to say, no matter how you pronounce it. He could have just moved the “H” and been “Woh.” Or maybe he could have dropped the “o” and grabbed an “ip” and been whip. Sure there is a “whip” now, but I bet “whip” was a johnny-come-lately as words go. After all, “whip” could not have been made into a word until someone said, ?Hey, what should I name this leather thing I use to scare cows,? or possibly, ?What should I do to this cream to make it a suitable desert topping?? So obviously the question words came first. But all of that is beside the point. What I want to talk about is the difference a few words can make in a sentence, question words in particular.
Let us begin with the incomplete sentence “_____ are you?” If you make it “How are you?” It is a fine greeting. “Who are you?? works if the person you are talking to is a stranger. “Where are you?” is a good question if you and the person you are talking to are either on the phone or in a dark cave. “What are you?” is a highly inappropriate to ask, even if the answer isn’t immediately apparent. If you can’t tell what someone is at first glance, and it isn’t Halloween, you are better off not knowing. “Why are you?” is far too philosophical to be a conversation starter, and the answer to “When are you?” is always “Now.” so it hardly seems worth asking.
Now, let’s add “doing” to the mix. “What are you doing?” is a friendly enough question to ask, unless you say “WHAT are you DOING?”, in which case fire, the neighbor’s cat, and genitalia are usually involved. “How are you doing?” is classic small talk. “Who are you doing?” is rather personal. “Where are you doing?” doesn’t make sense unless the person you are talking to is Debbie, in which case we already know the answer is “Dallas.” “When are you doing?” and “Why are you doing?” are vague and existential respectively.
Come to think of it, this is kind of a dud of a subject, let’s get back to the sordid details of the words themselves. Rumor has it “who” pulled his stunt because he was hanging out with “if”. “If” has always felt slighted that she was never asked to audition for question word, despite being a very question-like word. That and she always hangs around with “but”, and he isn’t exactly popular. Toss in “and” and you’ve got a trio no one wants around. Words often build tree forts and bar those three from entry. See, the thing is, “if” hasn’t got a leg to stand on in the whole “I should have been a question word” debate because of one simple thing. “Which”. He starts with a “wh” and is a legitimate word to start a question. Yet for some reason, who, what, when, where, and why get all the glory. And you never hear “which” complain. What a trooper. Boldly helping people make decisions, feeding puppies, massaging the elderly, and maintaining the precise gravitational balance between the earth and the moon that makes tides possible. (I don’t know if all of this is true, but something must be doing those things, and I already know it isn’t elves.)