Phone: Ring! Ring!
Unfortunate Caller “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…”
Joe: “Geeeeez!! My boring greeting put someone to sleep again.”
Phone: Ring! Ring!
Thrilled Caller “I’m tingling all over! Thank you!”
Joe: “All part of the service.”
Which scenario is more pulse-pounding? Do we need to change the way we answer the phone? And why do we answer with “hello” in the first place?
In 1877, inventor extraordinaire Thomas Edison wrote to the president of the Central District and Printing Telegraph Company in Pittsburgh. The CDPTC (in P) was preparing to introduce telephone service to the city. In his letter, Edison expressed the opinion that the word “hello” would be a more appropriate greeting than “ahoy” when answering the telephone. Evidently Thomas had some street cred, because the Telegraph Company president took his advice, Pittsburghers answered the phone with “hello,” and people have been following that lead ever since.
Dang, Tom, are you kidding me? “Ahoy” would be WAY more fun than “hello.” You are credited with giving the world so much with your 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, but you really blew this one. I think you needed to jack up the inspiration to about 60-70 percent. The consequence of your hasty thinking is the world is now saddled with the most limp, lifeless greeting in the history of oral communication. Even Neanderthal cretins Blarg and Oog used the more exciting “ugh.” I’m sure you never envisioned a world where phone calls would occur at the rate of millions per minute, or you would have put more cogitation into it, Tom.
To be fair, the Wizard of Menlo Park was being his usual creative self, as he is credited with coining the word “hello.” Edison likely started out bellowing “hallo” or “hillo” into the phone. Those words were traditionally used for hailing or calling from a distance. But he came up with a slightly changed pronunciation and spelling, and it quickly caught on. The first operators, in fact, were called “hello girls.” That term grates on modern ears, but considering that a likely alternative would have been “call girls” – well, perhaps it was for the best.
The inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, favored ahoy, and I must say I’m in Alex’s corner. I’d rather be ahoyed than hello’d any day. (Come to think of it, I’d also rather be howdied, heyed, yo’d, ciao’d, or bonjoured.)
But you and I are stuck in a world where dreary hellos drip from phones like sludge from a sewer pipe. (Excuse me – I need to wipe off my phone.)
I believe with all my heart that it’s not too late, though. Oppressed people of the insipid salutation, we can right this wrong. There may not be many things in this vale of tears called life that we have the power to change, but in the name of A.G. Bell and AT&T, the way we answer the phone is one of them. The people of Pittsburgh gave life to hello; we can put its lackluster carcass in the grave.
Hear my rallying cry: Let’s Get Nautical!
I’m calling for an all-out media blitz, washing over the nation, flushing away turgid hellos and replacing them with snappy ahoys. We’ll need to snare a celebrity spokesperson, such as Tom Hanks or Popeye. Popeye would probably be cheaper.
As ahoy gains traction, we would naturally be tempted to slip other seafaring expressions into the conversation. Surely a measure of caution is in order, as it would be easy to walk the plank and degenerate into swashing our buckle with too many pirate terms, (which, of course, should only be used on telemarketers).
Phone: Ring! Ring!
Telemarketer: You are part of a select blah blah that we can offer blah blah if you sign over your blah blah and provide Social Security numbers and blah blah…
Joe: “Avast, ye lubber, call me again and I’ll shiver your timbers!”
I also recommend ahoy be used when texting. In fact, I foresee an anchor emoticon becoming the latest craze. This emoticon is currently being developed in the third sub-basement of the Joe Zone Lab HILIFT (Highly Innovative Lab for Inventing Futuristic Things). Then we wouldn’t have to go to all the trouble of typing four letters, which exceeds the attention span of many of our texting mateys. Anchors aweigh, and away!
Who’s with me? Here’s an opportunity to make a difference. Imagine the thrill that will ripple through your body every time the phone rings, knowing you can answer with, “Ahoy!” In fact, you may need to limit your calls if you’re overly excitable, or having heart issues.
Fortunately, my heart is A-OK, or at least B-OK. So please, from now on, when I call, answer with a hearty, “Ahoy!”