Jen: Hi I’m Jennifer and I’m waiting for Helen. I did see her in the corridor earlier, and she was looking a bit unhappy. Wait, here she is. Hi Helen!
Helen: Hi Jen.
Jen: What’s the matter, Helen? Why the long face?
Helen: What’s wrong with my face?
Jen: Nothing’s wrong with your face, except that it looks a bit upset.
Helen: But you just said I’ve got a long face.
Jen: No – what I said was…
Helen: You think I’ve got a strange face. I KNEW I shouldn’t have worn my hair like this today.
Jen: No, I asked you: “Why the long face?”
Helen: Is it my nose? Is it too big? Or maybe my chin is the wrong shape. Maybe I should just wear a bag over my head!
Jen: No, no, no – that’s not what I meant! First of all, you look LOVELY today.
Helen: OK… So what did you mean?
Jen: In English, the expression “why the long face?” is used as an informal way of asking someone what’s wrong if they look upset.
Helen: So there’s nothing wrong with my face?
Jen: No, there isn’t. Let’s hear some examples of the phrase in use.
- You’ve just got a new job, a new house and a new man – you should be happy! Why the long face?
- Hey there, don’t look so sad! Why the long face?
Helen: So “why the long face?” is just another way of asking “what’s the matter?”
Jen: Exactly. You could also say “what’s up?”
Helen: That’s very simple – you could say “what’s wrong?” too.
Jen: So what IS wrong? Why do you look so miserable?
Helen: I’ve just had a really bad day – everything has gone wrong. First I lost my car keys, then I was late for a meeting and I fell over and tripped and landed in a puddle on my way. It was a horrible day.
Jen: It sounds awful. I know, how about I tell you a joke to cheer you up – you’ll like this one.
Helen: OK, why not. Let’s hear it.
Jen: A horse walks into a bar. The barman says: “why the long face?”
Helen: So the horse was unhappy? What’s funny about that?
Jen: The barman says to the horse “Why the long face?”
Helen: Why would a horse be in a bar?
Jen: It doesn’t matter – it’s a joke. It’s a horse so the barman says “Why the long face?”
Helen: I don’t understand.
Jen: Well, the horse has a long face.
Helen: So it’s unhappy?
Jen: No, well, yes, but that’s the joke. Horses have long faces.
Helen: So why did it go into the bar again…?
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