It’s World Hello Day!

The idea for the day, which started 50 years ago, was that everybody participating would make a point of saying hello to at least ten people, which would bring those people together and promote dialogue and community and all those good, peaceful things.

Of course, there’s one question at the heart of that “hello”-ing – why did we start saying “hello” in the first place?

It turns out we haven’t been saying “hello” for that long, relatively speaking.

Until only recently, English speakers were more likely to greet each other by saying “hail,” which has roots in words that referred to health.

So people were essentially saying “I hope you’re well” when they saw each other.

(And if Sanrio had created its most famous character earlier she would’ve been known as Hail Kitty!)

The Oxford English Dictionary traces “hello” back to 1827, and for much of the 19th century it wasn’t so much a greeting as it was a way to get somebody’s attention.

Back then you’d say “hallo there” the way that we would now say “hey” or “yo” or “dude.”

By some accounts, people in the western US would announce themselves outside of someone’s house by saying something like “hello, the house.”

The word “hello” gained its modern function thanks to the invention of the telephone.

It was the suggestion of Thomas Edison, who thought it was a simple way for everyone to announce that they’d picked up the incoming call.

But it wasn’t the only suggestion: if telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell had his way, we would all have answered our calls with an old nautical greeting: “ahoy.”

Sunflowers are famous for turning their colorful heads toward the sun as it moves through the day.

Scientists at the University of California-Davis have figured out how the sunflowers do this.

Essentially, they grow on the east sides of their stems during the day, which moves the head toward the west.

At night, the growth is on the west sides of the stems, so the heads move east again for the next day.

You could call this head-spinning science.

World Hello Day: History of a Greeting (Saturday Evening Post)

How Sunflowers See the Sun (UC-Davis)

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Photo by ashley norquist via Flickr/Creative Commons