The word telephone derives from the Greek words “tele” and “phonos” – it literally means “far off sound.” Most of us have heard that Alexander Graham Bell opted for “Ahoy” as a telephone greeting – perhaps as a nod to sound “waves?” But we can thank Thomas Edison for deciding that “hello” – a greeting he derived from the word “holler” – was a better choice. The words, “here, hold this” spoken by Bell to Mr. Watson when handing over his telephone instrument are thought to be the origin of the phrase “to put someone on hold.” When you put someone on hold, you’re really saying “don’t hang up – I’ll be right back!” Hanging up used to make sense, because the first phones were mounted on the wall. When the call was finished, the caller literally had to hang the receiver up on the phone’s cradle. The term lingers on, even though it’s been ages since most of us have seen a phone mounted to anything at all! So, no matter how up to date your phone system and technology may be, your language is a constant reminder of the first days that people had access to those “far off sounds.”
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