Tuesday, June 06, 2006
These days we pick up the telephone, or the cell phone, or greet people with the salutation "hello". But where did the word come from? It comes from a rather unlikely source, mainly Thomas Edison!
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, and it used one piece to speak into and to listen as well. Bell's salutation for the phone was "hoy hoy" (watch the "Simpson's" and hear what Mr. Burns says as he answers the phone "hoy hoy").
Thomas Edison did not like Hoy hoy, he did not like Bell, what's more Bell did not like him either. Edison as soon as he heard of the Bell invention started working on making an improved telephone. Edison would often joke about "Bell's apparatus", saying to the effect that you had to go tell the person you spoke to on Bell's phone what you had said!
The Edison team developed the Carbon Button Transmitter, which was a very early form of the microphone and this development made the telephone far more practical. Edison sold this development to Bell's competitor Jay Gould, for a tremendous amount of money, further endearing himself to Bell.
Lastly Edison came up with his greeting for the phone "hell-o" It is fun! It had its origins with Mark Twain who did use it in a printed work and it may have influenced Edison. Also it has been said that other languages may have influenced it too. Who knows? In a way Edison was playing with Victorians who were putting skirts on piano legs and got them all to say Hell....o. To him really goes the credit for pushing the word, as he did.
A word a proper Victorian would be caught saying. People often referred to the word as a vulgar greeting. It is also not in Webster's Dictionary till 1883.
So the next time you see a movie or drama of a period of time pre Edison and they say Hello to each other...you'll know that they didn't do their homework
By the way, Bell refused to use the word his entire life and continued to use the salutation "hoy hoy" till he died in 1922!!!