Posted by: JohnHo | September 12, 2009

Hey there!!!

I am thinking of greeting in English. It is surprising that there are many ways to say “hi” in English.

By checking from Oxford English Dictionary, I draw a little timeline for “greeting” history.

In year 1225, “Hey” was first recorded in writing history as a mean to call for attention
In year 1400, “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, and “Good evening” were first recorded in writing history as salutation
In year 1475, “Hi” was first recorded in writing history as an exclamation used to call attention
In year 1827, “Hello” was first recorded in writing history as a greeting
In year 1862, “Hi” was first recorded in writing history as greeting

In year 2009, one of my friends greeted me in the following way in MSN:

Peter (9/8/2009 15:25) Hey there
Siu Chung Ho (9/8/2009 15:25) Where?
Peter (9/8/2009 15:26) lol
Peter (9/8/2009 15:26) hey there just means hi
Peter (9/8/2009 15:26) ha~~ I never heard that before
Peter (9/8/2009 15:26) 🙂
Siu Chung Ho (9/8/2009 15:26) It seems to me that it’s a mutation of “hey dear”
Peter (9/8/2009 15:26) lol
Peter (9/8/2009 15:27) I think it is just a shorter version
Peter (9/8/2009 15:27) of
Peter (9/8/2009 15:27) Hey, over there
Peter (9/8/2009 15:27) Hey you, over there
Siu Chung Ho (9/8/2009 15:27) but… If I am standing in front of you… would you say “hey there” to me?
Peter (9/8/2009 15:28) you might
Peter (9/8/2009 15:28) anyway
Peter (9/8/2009 15:28) It is just a phrase 😛

Although my friend said “Hey there just mean hi”, I believe that the use of “hey there” and “hi” may represent different identity. People who use “hey there” may represent a younger generations. Also, I guess “hey there” may not use in formal speech but “hi” does. As a second language learner of English, I have no idea how to use the word “hey there”. But I think the word “hey there” is interesting and can be studied as a social variable.



  1. Good observations. I can clearly remember when the shift from ‘hi’ to ‘hey’ happened in my own experience. In fact, I can date it precisely to 1996 when a friend started addressing me as ‘Hey Piers’. I remember thinking that this was unusual at the time. It’s interesting that ‘Hi’ and ‘Hi there’ originally had the sense of calling someone’s attention and then later became a greeting. This is exactly the same process that ‘hey’ and ‘hey there’ is going through. Will the same thing happen to ‘Oi’?

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