Where does what’s up come from?
What’s up can be traced back to the early 19th century, appearing in English works of fiction as a question or a greeting. It often referred to an event or problem that was “up.”
Later iterations, including wassup, whassup, whaddup, and wazzup evolved from slurring the consonants of the original phrase. These iterations first came into use in the early 20th century.
What’s up was further brought into the popular lexicon by Bugs Bunny, a cartoon rabbit who premiered to great popularity in the 1940s. Bugs Bunny’s signature greeting was “What’s up, Doc?” The creator of the cartoon claimed it was a common phrase in his Texas hometown. Originally used to cheekily address Bugs’s longtime nemesis (cartoon hunter Elmer Fudd), the catchphrase became well-known to Bugs’s large audience and was widely adopted.
Whassup was also the catchphrase (and pun on wasabi) in a popular 1999 Anheuser-Busch Budweiser beer commercial campaign. The campaign was based on True, an award-winning short film created by Charles Stone III.
Then, in 2000, Scary Movie created a whole scene around one phrase: wazzup. The widespread exposure further cemented the popularity of wazzup and what’s up in pop culture.
Who uses what’s up?
What’s up is widely used among the general population. It is considered a more casual greeting and is often meant rhetorically, requiring no actual update on specific events.
It can also be pronounced wassup or whaddup, among other variations. These informal versions of the phrase have only spiked its popularity.
Whaddup in particular is commonplace in AAVE, and is the name of a popular hip-hop song by artist LL Cool J.
What’s up with WhatsApp on Blackberry and Windows Phone?
Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, December 2017
This jet lag has me feeling like I’m at the end of a 3 day bender hahaha. Birmingham what’s up!! Been a long time since we have gotten wild. Can’t wait to see all of you tonight
@ccbvb, January 2018
If someone comes up to me with a worried look on their face and says what's up, they are asking if anything's wrong. If on the other hand they say wassssssssup? it means they have been watching far too much TV, in particular an advert for a gassy American beer.
cirrus, WordReference, 2006