Cambridge, August 2014


sidewalk nametag  (sonya kovacic)

sidewalk nametag (sonya kovacic)

Although the first phone call happened in Boston (see our June email), the first "Hello" certainly didn't. In fact, the correct way to answer a telephone call was disputed at the time — between Alexander Graham Bell and one of his rivals, Thomas Edison.

Bell's greeting of choice was nautical: "Ahoy!" (also favored by The Simpsons' Mr. Burns). Edison, on the other hand, was in favor of a word that wasn't typically a greeting, but was instead used to get someone's attention, or express surprise. His greeting — "Hello!" — became widespread, and eventually made it into international guidebooks for using the telephone.

(The guidebooks were not the last word, however. Before "Goodbye" became the standard sign-off, the books suggested the more straightforward "That is all.")

About a hundred years later, one seal at the New England Aquarium learned the word, too. Hoover the Talking Seal became famous for greeting visitors with a Bostonian "Hello theah!"