TagOral communication

Origin of Hello

The hell in hello has nothing to do with the Devil’s abode. The word is related to similar shouts of greeting, such as hallo or halloa. Several languages have similar exclamations, such as Swedish hej, which sounds like English hey. This is...

How We Finish Conversations

A customer-service representative from Seattle, Washington, is curious about the phrases people use as a part of leave-taking when they’re finishing a telephone conversation. Linguists who conduct discourse analysis on such conversations say...

What Keeps You Busy?

We’ve spoken on the show before about conversation openers that differ from the often dreaded “What do you do?” and we heard from one listener who prefers “What keeps you busy?” This is part of a complete episode.

Speaking vs. Talking

There’s a subtle difference between speaking and talking. Speaking tends to be more formal—you wouldn’t say Talker of the House of Representatives—while talking tends to connote conversation. For more on this topic, check out The Scene...

Nomophobia

How would you feel if someone took away your smartphone? Nomophobia, the suggested moniker for that anxiety produced by the separation between one and one’s phone, was cooked up by a market research firm. Is there a better term for that awful...

Clean as the Sound of a Whistle

If something’s clean as a whistle, that doesn’t mean it’s shiny and spotless like a silver whistle in a referee’s mouth. The idiom refers to a whistling sound: That piercing noise is super-bright and finely edged on the ear...

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