Saturday, January 30, 2010

Whazzup? Whazzup? Yo Whazzup!

I’ve always wondered why people say, Hello, the way they do. Come to think of it, fewer and fewer people actually use Hello these days.

I’ve noticed how other words have taken its place, like Hey and Hey there. And depending on where you are in the U.S., the old standby Hello translates to Hullo, Heylo and Hi Y'all.

Now that I think of it, we rarely hear Good morning, Good afternoon or Good evening. While we may hear Good morning, Good afternoon and Good evening from the consignor at a posh hotel in Chicago, San Diego or New York City, it is doubtful we’ll be greeted by our spouses or neighbors with "Good morning." And we probably should never expect to hear "Good morning" from a teenager.

For the most part, these greetings of yesteryear are artifacts from a bygone culture - a more formal and gentile one, unlike the "Yo!" times we find ourselves in today.

Not too long ago, a new synonym for hello entered our lexicon of greetings: Whazzup, which is a slurred way to say, "What’s up?" You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Whazzup.

I’m glad that craze is over. I could never bring myself to greeting anyone with Whazzup. Not that I thought it was bad, it just wasn’t natural.

Sometimes I greet people with "What’s going on?" or "How’s it going?" but that's the closest I ever come to Whazzup.

I have never said, Hi ya. Once in a great while, I eek out a Hey and occasionally, I say, Howdy, but never Howdy, Partner. That’s a little too "Out West" for me, even though I do live west of the Mississippi River, which technically is considered The West.

I’ve done some reading on the salutation Howdy. I learned that it originated as a shortened form of the greeting "How do ye?" and was first recorded as part of the Southern U.S. dialect in 1840.

According to Wikipedia, "The use of Hello as a telephone greeting has been credited to Thomas Edison. Hello is alternatively thought to come from the word hallo (1840) via hollo…an exclamation originally shouted in a hunt when the quarry was spotted."

I read about a county in Texas that said, adios to Hello. A few years ago, the Klegberg County commissioners unanimously designated "heaven-o" as the county's official greeting. Why? Because they believed "Hello" contained the word "hell," even though "Hello" has no linguistic roots in the term.

They adopted "heaven-o" to symbolize peace and friendship. So now, when Klegberg County courthouse employees answer the phones, they say, "Heaven-o." I am thinking about calling down there just to see if they are doing their jobs.

After contemplating how we say, Hello, I have concluded that the way we greet each other telegraphs our attitude and our spirit within. The way we greet one another reports not only what’s on our minds but what's on our hearts.

Whether our salutation is Hi Y’all, Howdy, Yo, Watzzup, Hey, Heaven-o or Hello, it’s the spark in our eyes, the lilt in our voice and the energy in our words that serve as verbal hugs for those we greet.

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.

No comments: