Skip to main content

Hello





One of the more common greetings you likely use in everyday English is probably not as old as you might think.  It was only around the 1880s when we started to use the word hello to greet others.  Hello was just a variation on now-archaic greetings like halloo, hullo and holla, among others.  Hello was originally an Americanism, and was considered informal, though inoffensive, and it soon found a specific niche.  The telephone had been invented in 1876, and since this was a new way of communicating, many felt that it needed a specific greeting.  Alexander Graham Bell, who held the patent for the telephone and was starting to set up telephone systems, originally promoted ahoy as a telephone greeting.  It makes sense, since that’s the word you use to call to others across long distances.  Ahoy has nautical associations, since sailors would frequently have to call out from ship to ship, but the word was often used on land, as well.  However, despite Mr. Bell’s urgings, hello became the preferred telephone greeting.  (Operating manuals for the first American telephone systems in the late 1870s sometimes suggested answering the phone with hello, and sometimes suggested What is wanted?  Gee, how come that one never caught on?)

Next time you’re watching The Simpsons and you hear the cartoonishly old Mr. Burns answer the phone “Ahoy-hoy!” you’ll understand why.

Image result for Monty Burns telephone
Monty Burns: the last holdout of the "Ahoy-hoy!" salutation.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Star-Spangled Banner: The Original Lyrics

If you’re an American (and quite possibly even if you’re not), you’ve certainly heard the tune called “To Anacreon in Heaven” numerous times.  It’s a stirring melody, and can often sound very proud, and if someone asked you to hum a few bars, you probably could do a creditable job of it, even if you have no musical ability at all.  The tune is that familiar.  Of course, it has another name that you probably know better: “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

But the song’s first name was “To Anacreon in Heaven”.  The song asserts that Anacreon is in heaven, right from the first line.  Whether Anacreon actually is in heaven, I’ll take no position on, but he most certainly is dead.  Anacreon was a Greek poet who lived from circa 582 BCE to 485 BCE, which is a remarkably advanced age for the times.  Anacreon was celebrated for his songs about drinking and love and having a good time.  Maybe not the weightiest of literature, but even the most serious poets and thinkers need to take a break now and …

Alcock and Brown: The First Transatlantic Flight

Since his celebrated landing in Paris 90 years ago, we often hear of Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic.  He flew solo, taking off from Roosevelt Field in Brooklyn and landing in Le Bourget field in Paris after a flight of 33½ hours in his cramped, lightweight plane, The Spirit of Saint Louis.  Lindbergh was one of several individuals or teams who were competing for the Orteig Prize: a $25,000 purse offered to the first to fly from New York to Paris, offered by wealthy New York hotelier Raymond Orteig.  Lindbergh took off and landed perfectly, and managed to navigate the whole way without getting lost.  This was quite a feat in the days before computers to aid navigation, or the elaborate system of air traffic control that would come into being, once commercial airlines started to develop.  What Lindbergh did immediately made him an international hero and a household name for years after, with streets and buildings and yes, airports, named after him.  To this day, Charles …