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Fry’s English Delight – Hallo

BBC Radio 4 has started a new series on the English language, titled Fry’s English Delight. In the third and final programme, which you can listen to below, Fry explores the word hallo. With the help of language experts Fry takes a look at the origins of the word and how its meaning has changed over the centuries. This radio broadcast will be available online for a few more days.

For more Stephen Fry, browse his website. I can recommend following him on Twitter and listening to his podcasts.

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Jonathan Cole


  • I’d be interested in hearing about the origin of “OKAY” – I’ve heard it associated with Andrew Jackson, known as “Old Kinderhook” and with U. S. Grant, who, a poor speller, wrote “all correct” as “ok”. Any knowledge on the topic?

  • This is one of those expressions for which numerous derivations have been suggested. My favourite (but definitely incorrect) explanation for the origin is that Henry VIII, having just been told that his latest wife had arrived at the quayside, was asked by a courtier “How are you today, sire?” Ignoring the question in his excitement, Henry shouted (in French, as you do) “Au quai” with a broad grin stretched across his face, leading the courtier to assume that “au quai” (take me to the quayside) was an English expression of satisfaction.

    Michael Quinion has a more accurately researched piece on the topic:

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