Why We Say Hello
When you first began studying English, one of the earliest things you probably learned to say was "hello." This greeting is so common that you may assume the word "hello" has been used in this way since the dawn of the English language. However, it wasn't all that long ago that saying "hello" meant something entirely different.
The first recorded use of "hello" occurred in 1827. At that time, it was used to get someone's attention, much like the phrase "excuse me." However, American inventor Thomas Edison had other plans for the word. When the first telephones became publicly available in the late 1870s, Edison began encouraging people to greet callers with "hello." This bothered the telephone's inventor, Alexander Bell, who insisted that people use the older term "ahoy" instead.
In the end, it was the publishers of the first phone books that settled the debate. These phone books came with instructions on how to use the newly invented telephone. In these instructions, "hello" was listed as the proper greeting to use. Consequently, with the spread of the telephone, "hello" soon became the everyday greeting we know so well today.