Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Brief History of Hello

Some words never seem to go out of fashion. In a recent poll, participants were asked how many times they used the word, "Hello," on any given day. After greeting one another, participants admitted that they didn't know exactly how many times they utilized the word but that they did indeed use it often, in particular when answering the telephone. 

Brief History of Hello

The first written use of HELLO spelled with an e is in a letter Edison wrote in August 1877 suggesting that it was the best way to start a conversation by telephone because it "can be heard ten to twenty feet away." 

While Alexander Graham Gell preferred the nautical "Ahoy, hoy!" it was Edison who shouted "hello!" into telephone receivers at Menlo Park Labs while making improvements to Bell's design. Soon, Edison's coworkers were using the word until it became common usage. Before "hello" was used, telephone operators used to say, "Are you there?" or "Who are you?" or "Are you ready to talk?" 

Once "hello" became a standard telephone greeting, operators were called "Hello Girls".  

Signal Corps telephone operators or "Hello Girls" trained at Camp Franklin, MD.
This photograph was taken in front of general headquarters in Paris, France, 11 March 1919. 

The earliest recorded use of delegate badges saying "Hello, my name is ..." was the first telephone operators' convention in Niagara Falls in 1880. 

In literature, Charles Dickens used a variation of the word, "Hullo," which was used at the time to express surprise. In Oliver Twist (1839) when Artful Dodger first notices Oliver, he says, "Hullo, my covey! What's the row?" 

Mark Lester as Oliver Twist,
Jack Wild as The Artful Dodger

Henry Alken - Halloo Foxhunting Watercolor 

"Hallo" was used to call hounds and ferrymen and was also a favorite word of Edison's. When he first discovered how to record sound (July 18, 1877) the word he shouted into the machine (the strip phonograph) was "Halloo": "I tried the experiment, first on a strip of telegraph paper, and found that the point made an alphabet. I shouted the word 'Halloo! Halloo! into the mouthpiece, ran the paper back over the steel point and heard a faint 'Halloo! Halloo!' in return! I determined to make a machine that would work accurately, and gave my assistants instructions, telling them what I had discovered." 

"Hello" was gradually replaced by the familiar, "Can you hear me now?" slogan used by actor Paul Marcarelli - the Verizon Wireless "employee" - a "test man" representing Verizon test technicians. 

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