English on the Internet - English Magazine

A Hundred Ways To Say Hello

November 21, 1999

Well, maybe not as many as a hundred, but I will give you more than you ever need.

There are many forms of greetings, both formal and informal, in the United States. Many are common in other English–speaking nations as well.

Simply saying only ”Hello!” is actually not a very common greeting, except when answering the phone. Incidentally, you know you have reached a home with very polite and well-trained children, when one hears a phone greeting like ”Hello, this is the Smith family; Johnny speaking.” Such formality is rare these days in the USA, but occasionally I still hear it.

Now, on to face-to-face contact, in informal situations. When encountering someone on the street, the most likely greeting I will hear is

”Hi, Kim! How are you?”

Even though the greeting is in fact a question, most of the time people do not expect an answer, especially not a detailed one about one’s health. Instead, the most common responses might be:

Fine, and you?

Great. Good to see you, Mary.

However, if the emphasis is on the ”are” in ”How are you?”, and you have recently been ill, maybe it would be appropriate to speak more of your condition in the reply.

Never content with boring conversation, I often answer the ”How are you?” question with one of the following humorous replies.

Compared to what?”

”Getting better every minute.”

”Older, yet wiser and more handsome.”

”Fair to partly cloudy.” (This is a common weather forecast, and can interpreted as a wry comment on one’s psychological condition as well.)

There are a lot less formal greetings than these, which are used between close friends. Some are rather lewd. I will only mention the nice ones.

If someone asks you, ”How’s it going?”

You might reply ”Great!” or ”Even better than yesterday!”

If your friend greets you with ”What’s up?”, ”What’s happening?”, or ”What’s cooking?”,

You might reply ”Not much!” or ”Same old stuff.” Or, you may tell him the latest news.

If you hear one of our black brothers say, Hey, man! What it is?

You might hear his friend reply, ”Just hanging loose, dude.” Or perhaps ”Just enjoying the scenery, man.”

More Formal Business Greetings

Naturally, business requires a bit more formality! Announcing one’s full name clearly and emphatically so it may be remembered is of paramount importance in business. Most greetings are accompanied by firm handshakes between men, and less firm hand clasping with women. Physical embraces are relatively uncommon in English-speaking countries compared to other parts of the world. Hugs and kisses rarely take place except between relatives, lovers, or between very close friends which have not seen each other for quite a time.

When a boss arrives at the workplace, the universal greeting to each worker is ”Good morning, (worker’s name)!” If your boss walks in without a smile and says nothing, a worker knows that he or she may experience a rough day!

Strangely, the greeting ”Good afternoon!” is used much less often, and ”Good evening!” is even rarer these days. This is true in the USA, but not necessarily in Great Britain. Of course you know that ”Good night!” is used solely as a farewell, and never as a greeting.

But back to the business world! The first thing a salesman will do upon entering my dental office is to shake my hand, and say something like:

”Joe Smith- Dental Contraptions Corporation. Good to meet you, doctor!”

(Or ”A pleasure to meet you!”, or ”Happy to get to talk with you!”, or something similar.)

If I do not throw him our of my office for ignoring my ”No Soliciting” sign, I would probably reply:

”Kim Henry- Glad to meet you!” or

”The pleasure is mine.” (Actually a lie.)

And provided the salesman is not presumptuous enough to address me by my first name, I will probably let the rascal give his whole sales presentation to me.

It is almost a universal belief in most countries that a person’s first impression is the lasting one. Thus it is important to get any meeting, whether social or business, off to a good start with an appropriately polite greeting.

by Kim Henry - USA, writes a lot of political and social commentary

© November 1999 English on the Internet www.aj.cz