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もしもし

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もしもし

Postby tōkai devotee » Tue 06.02.2009 6:39 am

I've been wondering this for a while and have asked around, but can't get a straight answer out of anyone, so I decided to ask the informed people on TJP! What are the origins of もしもし - the greeting Japanese people give when answering the telephone? Do they use it at any other time?

Thanks! :D
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Re: もしもし

Postby Kakads » Tue 06.02.2009 7:30 am

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Re: もしもし

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 06.02.2009 7:33 am

It ultimately derives from 申す(もうす); the main other use is to get someone's attention who is zoning out. As for why it's used on the phone, I have no idea.
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Re: もしもし

Postby spin13 » Tue 06.02.2009 7:34 am

You can read about the origins here: 語源由来辞典. For future reference you can usually just Google "<word> 由来" to find such resources.

You can also use it to get people's attention or to check if somebody is there/listening. This might be at a sushi joint where you maybe can't see the chef's face but want to order, or it might be when your friend is spaced out. Used at the wrong time or with the wrong tone, though, and it's about as friendly and polite as "Hellooo! Earth to John!"
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Re: もしもし

Postby two_heads_talking » Tue 06.02.2009 9:21 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:It ultimately derives from 申す(もうす); the main other use is to get someone's attention who is zoning out. As for why it's used on the phone, I have no idea.


literally it means speak speak, as Chris mentions above... I'm pretty certain Japanese isn't the only country/language that says "speak" when they answer the phone.. ( I believe that's what I was told 20 some years ago anyways..)
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Re: もしもし

Postby Harisenbon » Tue 06.02.2009 8:00 pm

two_heads_talking wrote:literally it means speak speak, as Chris mentions above... I'm pretty certain Japanese isn't the only country/language that says "speak" when they answer the phone.. ( I believe that's what I was told 20 some years ago anyways..)


It also means to be called (ハリセンボンと申します)
The story I heard back in the day was that when phones came to Japan, the connection was really bad, so that people would have to repeat themselves often. When calling someone they would say ~と申します, but would have to say it twice to make sure they were heard. Over time this got shorted to simply saying もうしもうし and from there to the now もしもし.

Of course, I had a Japanese person inform me that they were actually answering the phone and saying "if if." I hope she was kidding.

Also, as an aside (and that kind of backs up my theory), you don't traditionally say もしもし when you pick up the phone (although it has become very common in recent years), but rather when you are the one dialing.
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Re: もしもし

Postby tōkai devotee » Wed 06.03.2009 5:45 am

Thanks everyone for replying!

I like the theory that you say moshi moshi on the phone because foxes can't pronounce it. Very interesting!??! :D

So, traditionally, what did people say when they picked up the phone? Did they say their names? ie 田中です。OR obviously if it was a business they'd use the business name.
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Re: もしもし

Postby furrykef » Wed 06.03.2009 10:41 am

People all over the world use all sorts of weird words and phrases to answer the phone. You'd think that "Hello?" is a fairly logical greeting, but it seems to be uncommon. In some Spanish speaking countries, they say "Bueno," which of course literally means "good", although it's also used as a filler word in conversation (roughly analogous to, "Well..."). In India, in a business setting, it's common to say something like, "My name is [name], what do you want?", which can be all too easily misinterpreted by people from other English-speaking cultures. And Alexander Graham Bell thought that people should say "Ahoy"...

EDIT: Incidentally, it turns out that even English's seemigly "logical" greeting was originally anything but logical: the word "hello" apparently didn't even exist until Thomas Edison proposed it as a telephone greeting! (However, it was an alteration of "hollo" or "hullo", which are much older words.)
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Re: もしもし

Postby astaroth » Wed 06.03.2009 11:00 am

furrykef wrote:People all over the world use all sorts of weird words and phrases to answer the phone.

That's completely true. In Italy we use 'Pronto?' which means '(are you) ready?' To me it seems perfectly logical ... I guess it's just a matter of cultures.
As of what people say when they're dialing instead of answering the phone, I always thought they should simply silently wait for the called person to say something after picking up the phone (of course in normal situations ... emergencies could be a bit more frantic ...)
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