Mind Matters: The politics of hello

On-field greeting: American footballers say g'day one of the many US ways that exist today.
On-field greeting: American footballers say g'day one of the many US ways that exist today.

When I see someone I know, I usually say: “Hey.” I learned that greeting from Gomer Pyle, the title character in an old TV show.

My greeting usually attracts a cheery hello in response. But one person routinely gives me a grunt. Another person used to glare at me in silence when I greeted him.

Once a colleague greeted me with a kiss on the cheek. I felt like a Hollywood celebrity.

Many people say to me as a greeting: “How are you going?” I know my behavioural script: I am to say some positive word like “good” or just say hello. I am not to pour out my deepest feelings.

The world leaders in greetings are players in the National Basketball Association. They made popular the high five, which was cool for many years. Now the players give a fist bump. I am macho enough to like that.

I have never received the French greeting of three alternating-cheek kisses. I may have to win the Tour de France to get that.

Some worldly individuals use foreign greetings. I sometimes say “bonjour” or “hola!”.

I occasionally go full Aussie and say “g’day.” Anglophiles could go with “’ello, gov’nor”. Or a person could step into an American Western movie role: “Howdy, partner”.

Years ago, when I worked in the US, one of my behaviour modification students tried to help a friend stop greeting others with "wuzzup?". 

Some folks like to rest their tongue, so they greet others with a nod of the head. Others use the minimum of energy and wink as a greeting. 

I have a friend who works as a store clerk. Whenever I go in the store, I say: “Hello, buttercup.” I always hope that she will respond by bursting into song: “Why do you build me up, Buttercup baby…” She never does.

This greeting business can become old through repetition. So I am experimenting with new greetings.

Ever since I read an article about whistle talking, I have wanted to develop a whistle greeting. I have one now. It sounds like the whistle of someone who is impressed. People look at me funny when I greet them with that.

I may be the only big fan of whistle talk around. Or maybe not. In big cities, annoying men channel their inner Harvey Weinstein and greet passing attractive women with a wolf whistle.

I believe that I long ago invented the belly-bump greeting. It is simple: Two people walk into each other and bump bellies. It is more intimate than a handshake.

My most recent greeting idea involves using my right hand to snap my fingers and then point at the person. That is working better for me than the hello whistle.

Creativity is good in greetings. See what you can come up with.