Do you know what that word means? Of course you know what you mean when you say it. But did you know that just a hundred years ago there was no word “hello”? In those days people said “How do you do?” or “Good morning” when they spoke to each other. And they could speak to each other only when they were together.
Then Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. People could talk to each other even when they were far apart. Everyone thought the new invention was wonderful. When a person heard a voice speaking over the telephone from miles away, he was too excited to say “How do you do?” or “Good morning.” But he was also afraid the person at the other end of the wire wouldn’t hear him if he didn’t shout. So he called out “Hullo”. This was a very old word.
After a while, people changed the word a little. They called “Hello!” instead. Later, they learned they didn’t have to shout at all. But by that time the word had become a habit. Today most people still say “Hello” when they pick up the telephone.
New words are born whenever they are needed. New words are being invented all the time.
Some new words become part of a language, just as hello did. That word was kept because it was so useful. Other new words that aren’t so useful may be forgotten soon. The world is changing all the time, so do words.
Every word has a kind of secret story behind it, just as hello has. Each word is a puzzle.
Some of the puzzles are easy to solve. The word “breakfast”, for example, is made up of two smaller words: “break” and “fast”. You know what break means. And when someone fasts, it means he doesn’t eat. Most people fast from the time they go to bed until they get up in the morning. They break their fast when they eat their morning meal – breakfast.
But some word puzzles are a little harder. The word “paper” comes from the name of a plant called papyrus. Papyrus grows in hot countries such as Egypt. Long ago in Egypt, men learned how to make sheets of paper from papyrus. They used the sheet to write on. That’s why today the word paper, from papyrus, is used for sheets that are written on. But today’s paper is not made of papyrus at all!