I would like to introduce my family's phrase for all occasions - "Howooda." For the non-kannadigas in the audience this is how it is pronounced: How -oo (the oo as in goop) -DA. I'm not sure how to define it exactly but in conversation you can use anywhere the phrase 'Is that so?' applies.
In my family we agree on pretty much two things - life is all about good food and wit is the only way to have a conversation. Consequently, we spend most of our time eating and making snarky but funny remarks about each other, the world at large and just about anyone whom we come across while eating. It's a game of constant rebuttal, back stabbing and intellect but sometimes in the heat of the moment when all possible jokes have been made and yet, there is a statement we want to make, we resort to: "How-oo-da?"
Delivery is the key component of this powerful tool in our society. When you have to sound incredulous (most often employed by my uncle when he is informed of any simple matter such as, "The sun is setting in the west", he goes, "Howda!") you simply make the oo disappear and cut short the DA. Of course, DA also happens to be a very popular ending in sentences when communicating between friends so if you put too much of an accent it sounds like "How, da?" as in, "How is that possible, da?" which is why you need to simply spit it out in order for it be totally surprised. If you can raise both your eyebrows and stroke your chin while simultaneously uttering the phrase you would have pulled it off to a tee. The incredulous howuda is most useful when you are presented with a zinger fact that you should know, but since you don't really wish to reveal your ignorance, you can cloak it with incredulity instead. I also commonly employ it when I have been given chores and after a five second turn around time my mother asks me if they have been completed. Bambi eyes and the incredulous howda buy me precious time before my brain synthesizes an appropriate excuse.
The next potent howooda is the patronizing one. Simply stretch the oo and da part for this rendition, so it goes something like - howooooodaaaaaa. If you can sing song the oo part this phrase will give you the seconds to either come up with a brilliant repartee or change your body language significantly to that of a threatening position so that your opponent forgets all about wit and engages his nerves in a "flight" response instead. I normally employ it when some aunty corners me at a wedding and asks me in sugary sweetness, "beta, what's the good news?" The correct response to this is, "The good news is that I'm not pregnant and not married" but since most aunties do not get the hidden sarcasm its better to resort to the long howoodaaaa having thus answered the question but, to the utter discontent of the questioning party. This completely spoils the mood and I can now walk away triumphantly, having convinced aforementioned aunty that I'm recovering from brain fever.
The next in series is the I'm-too-cool-for-this-gab-gab-gab howooda. First, for this you need to wear sunglasses (or any type of glasses) and learn how to smile without showing your teeth. This howooda can be interjected during any point in the conversation and doesn't require a lead in, which means you could potentially nap through say... a treatise on marxism in India and, still opine by simply employing this word right after someone has said a really long sentence. Of course, if you nap through the end of the sentence this phrase cannot help you. To deliver simply pull glasses down to end of nose bridge, raise eyebrow and say "Hoooowooooooda?". Oh, also try cocking your head to one side. Use mirror to practice till all fine points are executed as one fluid motion. This exact sequence can also be used to feign boredom.
I'm sure there are lots more exciting situations where this versatile word combined with facial expressions can deliver a deadly yet concise blow to logic. Maybe we need more of it in our diplomatic corps. If you have a howooda moment please do share it!