Why Do We Say Hello On The Phone?


The term ‘hello’ was first used by Thomas Edison to answer the phone. It then became the standard for answering calls.

We have all grown up saying hello on the phone. It is literally the first word out of most people’s mouth when they pick up the phone. I bet you do it as well, and you don’t even think about it. It is just instinctive, hello is what you say when you pick up the phone.

Surprisingly, hello is actually a fairly new word. According to Oxford Dictionaries, the term came into usage in the late 19th century, while other sources putting its emergence at 1827. It was actually a variation of English greeting ‘hullo.’ This was years before the telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, which happened in 1876.

At the time that Bell invented the telephone, the term hello was being used as a word to garner attention such as, “Hello, what are you doing?” or “Hello, who is there?” In fact, hello was not even in the forerunner to be used as a greeting over the phone, or even a greeting at all. People didn’t use hello as a greeting, which was considered as rude, rather people used the traditional Good Morning, Good Day, or Good Evening. When Bell used the telephone, he preferred to use “Ahoy!”, which is basically a nautical greeting, now mainly used by pirates in cartoons.

The use of hello was actually accidental and by Thomas Alva Edison nonetheless. As the story goes, Thomas Edison mistakenly heard a person say ‘hullo’ on the phone, he naturally responded with ‘hello’. Hence, hello has been used since. Of course, reality is not exactly that simple. However, the basis of the story is true, Thomas Edison offered and used ‘hello’ as a standard greeting when using the telephone. He actually offered the term as there was a need for a greeting that allowed a person to get the attention of the person on the other line. At the time, telephones were an open line, which means that phones were always connect, one just had to pick up the phone and start talking. As the usage of telephones grew, telephone exchanges came into place, where ‘hello-girls’ or operators would connect one telephone line to another. While this may have changed over the years, the usage of hello has stuck around.

As is with all things that are popular, there is a rumor going around about how the term hello came to be used. This rumor claims that hello was the name of Alexander Graham Bell’s girlfriend. Margaret Hello was the first person with whom he conversed on the newly invented phone. However, there are a couple of issues with this story. One, do you often call your boyfriend or girlfriend with their last name? Secondly, Bell did not have a girlfriend; he was already married when he invented the device. His wife’s name was Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, who took the name Mabel Bell after marriage. Also, she would not have been conversing on the phone with her husband, mainly because she was deaf since childhood.

Courtsey: Knowledge