That phrase is from a song called ‘Born under a Wandering Star’, from the movie ‘Paint your Wagon’ and sung by the late great Lee Marvin.
‘Do I know where hell is, hell is in hello
Heaven is goodbye forever, it’s time for me to go
I was born under a wandering star
A wandering, wandering star.’
I came across something the other day and it got me thinking–I often think about the origins of words, especially the ones we use every day. It was suggested the word ‘goodbye’ was a contraction of ‘God be wi’ ye’, which makes sense to me. Now I tend to say ‘See ya’ or ‘Bye’, being even lazier, or perhaps less formal, and I don’t think that’s just me.
Of course, as an Aussie, my overseas friends might think I say g’day all the time but the truth is I think we’re more likely now to say ‘hi’ or ‘hello’. I noticed when I went for a morning walk a few days ago at a popular walking spot, everyone greeted me with something different. I tend to say ‘Morning’ in those situations and I had one or two reply the same, a couple of hellos, a hi or two and one g’day.
Anyway, back to the origins of words. I remember some of the books I read as a child, used the spelling ‘hullo’ or ‘hallo’, whereas now ‘hello’ has become more commonplace. From my five minute internet research it seems the origin is either French or German, and was a word (hola) used to hail a ferryman. Something like ‘whoa there’ or maybe ‘hey!’ The invention of the telephone made it a common greeting which seems weird until you give it some thought; it would be weird not to have some kind of phone etiquette.
Another particularly interesting thing about the word is that is has, at various times, been spelt with every vowel in the English language, even ‘i’. I’m not aware of any other word with that claim to fame!
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