Hello, welcome to historical linguistics

Historical linguistics is a repository of fascinating stories.

Book jacket The English Is ComingOn this day 184 years ago, a Washington DC daily recorded the first published use of the word hello in America, although the word certainly was in common use before that.

The 1827 use is attributed to a man named Joe Laughton. Laughton was one of the thousands of spectators who turned out to see a stunt on the Niagara River. The stunt involved a boat decorated to look like a pirate ship and carrying a load of wild animals.

As it went over Niagara Falls,  the boat broke up.

From the sidelines, Joe Laughton thought the boat could be saved. He asked his companions, one of whom wrote the piece that appeared in the U. S. Telegraph, “Hello…wher’s Bil Perry and Olla Parsons?”

Bill and Olla didn’t step out to help.

Some animals swam to safety, but many drowned.

Leslie Dunton-Downer relates the incident in her 2010 book, The English is Coming!