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Hello..... Word used to Attract Immediate Attention

A (Shockingly) Short History Of 'Hello'

What do you say when you pick up the phone?

You say "hello," of course.

What do you say when someone introduces a friend, a relative, anybody at all?

You say "hello."

Hello has to have been the standard English language greeting since English people began greeting, no?

Well, here's a surprise from Ammon Shea, author of The First Telephone Book: Hello is a new word.

The Oxford English Dictionary says the first published use of "hello" goes back only to 1827. And it wasn't mainly a greeting back then. Ammon says people in the 1830's said hello to attract attention ("Hello, what do you think you're doing?"), or to express surprise ("Hello, what have we here?"). Hello didn't become "hi" until the telephone arrived.

More telephone wire.

The dictionary says it was Thomas Edison who put hello into common usage. He urged the people who used his phone to say "hello" when answering. His rival, Alexander Graham Bell, thought the better word was "ahoy."

Ahoy?

"Ahoy," it turns out, had been around longer — at least 100 years longer — than hello. It too was a greeting, albeit a nautical one, derived from the Dutch "hoi," meaning "hello." Bell felt so strongly about "ahoy" he used it for the rest of his life.

And so, by the way, does the entirely fictional "Monty" Burns, evil owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant on The Simpsons. If you watch the program, you may have noticed that Mr. Burns regularly answers his phone "Ahoy-hoy," a coinage the Urban Dictionary says is properly used "to greet or get the attention of small sloop-rigged coasting ship." Mr. Burns, apparently, wasn't told.

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