Professor Allen Koenigsburg:
When Bell invented the phone, Alexander Graham Bell, he didn’t use ‘hello’ at all. He used ‘ahoy.’ He used it twice, ‘Ahoy. Ahoy.’ And apparently he was the only one that used it, because I’ve never heard anybody to this day say, ‘Ahoy.’ And Bell was not even in the Navy, so I don’t know why he insisted on using a call that way. But if you study the origin of the word ‘hello,’ which may come from ‘halloo,’ is the call of a ferry boat operator, and you call them over when you want a ferry boat to come to your doorstep. And you say, ‘Halloo.’ So the word may have come from that. Hello just began to be used all over the place, and by the 1880s, it was fairly popular.
All Things Considered helped to keep my brain ticking over during a long, cold year in the USA. Odd little things like this, the semiotics of answering the phone, are the reason it’s so good. I well remember a story about how shredded motor tyres were being used as fill for roads in the USA. The presenter noted that, to date, only two such roads had caught fire.