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’
“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
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”. What should you do? First, don't delete!
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.
Fighting coronavirus misinformation
Africa Check is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers fighting misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic.
Learn more about the alliance here.
© Copyright Africa Check 2020. Read our republishing guidelines. You may reproduce this piece or content from it for the purpose of reporting and/or discussing news and current events. This is subject to: Crediting Africa Check in the byline, keeping all hyperlinks to the sources used and adding this sentence at the end of your publication: “This report was written by Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website", with a link back to this page.