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No, ‘Margaret Hello’ was not phone inventor Alexander Graham Bell’s girlfriend

A meme shared on Facebook in Nigeria and Kenya claims to explain the origin of the word “hello”.

It reads: “When you lift the phone you say Hello..? Do you know what is the real meaning of Hello..? It is the name of a girl..! YES & do u know who is that girl..? ‘Margaret Hello’ she was the girlfriend of Graham Bell who invented telephone.” 

It includes an old black and white photo of a woman and man.

Scottish-born US inventor Alexander Graham Bell did invent the telephone, in 1876. But was “hello” really his girlfriend’s surname?

Bell wanted to use ‘ahoy’ as phone greeting

Africa Check asked Mary Kay Carson, author of the book Alexander Graham Bell: Giving voice to the world, about the meme.

Bell “had no such girlfriend”, she told us.

And did he encourage people to use “hello” as a greeting?

“Nope, not right!” she said. “Bell wanted to use the term ‘Ahoy’ to answer the telephone.”

On March 7, 1876 Bell was awarded a patent on his new device. Three days later he made his first successful phone call.

The first words spoken over the phone were Bell telling his assistant, electrician Thomas Watson: “Mr Watson – Come here – I want to see you.”

Thomas Edison promoted ‘hello’

A US National Public Radio article says inventor Thomas Edison was the one “who put hello into common usage”.

“He urged the people who used his phone to say ‘hello’ when answering. Alexander Graham Bell thought the better word was ‘ahoy’,” the article says

“Bell felt so strongly about ‘ahoy’ he used it for the rest of his life.”

The claim is incorrect, but it’s been circulating for at least five years. In 2014 US fact-checking site Snopes rated it a “sorry tale” that is “merely a hoax, nothing more”.

Bell “was engaged to Mabel Hubbard”, a woman he married the year after he invented the phone, “who remained his wife until his death in 1922”, Snopes says. The photo in the meme is of Bell and Hubbard – not “Margaret Hello”.

According to a 2009 History article, Bell met the 15-year-old Hubbard while teaching at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes. “Despite the 10 year gap, they went on to marry in 1877.” - Taryn Willows


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