When you consider the concept of inventions, anything from the wheel to the iPod might spring to mind. Youâ€™re probably less likely to think of a word; particularly not one you may take so completely for granted as the word of greeting, â€˜helloâ€™.
Yet it is believed to be just that â€“ the invention of Thomas Edison. He is credited with advocating â€˜helloâ€™ as the best way of answering the telephone, from where it gradually moved into the general use it has today.
It may be more accurate to say, he adapted and perfected a pre-existing invention (much as he did with the electric light bulb).
Before Edisonâ€™s influence, you might have exclaimed â€˜hullo!â€™ in surprise, hailed a ferryman with a resounding â€˜holloâ€™, or even led a hunting party to their quarry by crying â€˜hallooâ€™ (if you were in the habit of doing these things).
Of course, words frequently enter the language through utter invention. Shakespeare coined an incredible 2000 or so new words, including â€˜jadedâ€™, â€˜bedroomâ€™ and â€˜obsceneâ€™; plus numerous phrases we now take for granted, such as â€˜vanish into thin airâ€™, â€˜flesh and bloodâ€™ and â€˜to be cruel to be kindâ€™.
Edisonâ€™s choice of answering utterance was based on its clarity â€“ and for that sentiment we naturally approve. And thatâ€™s not the only call for us to owe him a debt of gratitude. Had it been left to Alexander Graham Bell, our typical salutation could well be â€˜ahoyâ€™.