Hello, Hullo, Hallo, Hull-oo-oo-oo. You may say it softly or you may holler at the top of your voice, but the person at the other end knows that all you are trying to do is get in touch with a greeting.
Legend has it that Thomas Alva Edison was the first to say hello over the telephone. But Edison didn’t invent ‘hello’ by a long shot. As a matter of fact, the greeting has been around for centuries much before the invention of telephone in 1885.
In ancient times, people greeted each other with ‘hallow’, which may have come from the Old French word ‘hola’, meaning ‘stop!’ or ‘whoa’. Even Noah Webster’s dictionary included ‘hello’ in 1883.
By the time the telephone came along, the Americans were saying ‘hullo’ to each other every day, so it was a short jump to ‘hello’. But it wasn’t until the telephone was invented that ‘hello’ emerged as a universal form of greeting and as a way of establishing contact.
So, Edison made hello a popular greeting and an integral part of our lives. Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone in 1885, never liked ‘hello’ and advocated the use of ‘ahoy’ as a telephonic greeting.
The telephone links kept expanding, so did the greeting. And soon it became a general greeting. Webster’s dictionary kept printing ‘hello’ as a greeting word even as Alexander Graham Bell rejected the greeting all his life! He insisted on saying ‘Ahoy, Ahoy’!
But the dictionaries continued to promote hello as a standard greeting in the English language and won the word war. Hello, Alexander Graham Bell, are you listening?