Perhaps not the most usual way of starting a blog but certainly one of the most common greetings used in countries with English as a first language. Hello, an alteration from hallo, hollo comes from the Old High German, halâ, holâ. However, if we’re talking about the origins of hello the most common association is surely attributed to Thomas Edison for first answering the phone with a surprised hullo, which was misheard for being a hello. (Personally I’m disappointed ahoy never took off.) But what does it actually mean? Not when is it used, but what meaning are we trying to convey when we say hello?
In Tibet people greet each other by sticking out their tongues. This is to show that their tongue is not black and as such that they can be trusted having proved that they are not a reincarnation of the evil black-tongued Tibetan King Lang Darma. Below Tibet, in Nepal and India “Namaste,” often spoken with a slight bow and palms pressed together, literally means ‘bowing to you’ and is intended to communicate respect, politeness and hospitality from one person to the other. Over in New Zealand the Maori greeting “kia ora” is like hello, only with the additional, literal translation meaning be well/healthy.
However, my favourite greeting has to be the Zulu, “Sawubona,” meaning “I see you,” and the response “Ngikhona” which means “I am here.” This exchange captures the essence of the Zulu philosophy, "Umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu", meaning "a person is a person because of other people.” Far more than a communication of simple acknowledgement; I did not exist before you saw me, your recognition brought me into being.
Relationships are crucial to our wellbeing. Relationships with friends, families and partners, and the quality of these relationships has a major impact on both our mental and physical health. Evidence shows that “our relationships can protect us from the effects of long term health conditions, aid recovery, and even prevent us from becoming ill in the first place. Those of us with strong relationships are 50% more likely to survive life-threatening illness than people with weaker ones. Our relationships are as important to our health as our diet or whether we smoke, if not more so.”
I wonder what might happen if our own greetings encouraged us to be more mindful of our relationships with other people, not only the value they bring to us, but in turn the importance of what we give to them through our interaction.