Why do we say “hello” to answer the phone? It only happens in Italy

Why in Italy when we answer the telephone let’s say “ready”? Why don’t we use a greeting as happens in many other countries in the world, for example hello/hello in English? In fact, if we stop to think for a second, using “hello” or “good morning”/”good evening” (depending on the time) should come more naturally to us. And instead we use “pronto”, a more technical and cold word, which comes from Latin prōmptus (past participle of the verb promise) and originally meant “put before your eyes” or “put within reach”. Why is there this custom?

Actually there is no certain answerbut some scholars and other information and dissemination portals have formulated two hypotheses main ones, which however are not absolutely exclusive of each other.

There first hypothesis compared to the habit of saying “hello” it takes into consideration the origins of telephony and therefore the history of the telephone. The first telephone lines and telephones were installed in the USA in the second half of the 19th century and then spread to Europe and Italy. Originally the lines connected only two sets, but systems were later introduced to manually route calls to different recipients. The figure of the man was born switchboard operatora person responsible for connecting the individual who had called with the recipient of the call using a cable with two jack outputs. In fact, each user was associated with a jack socket at a so-called table and switch panel. When the cable was correctly connected, the switchboard operator would say “hello”, allowing the call to proceed. In the specific case, however, the doubt remains as to why the term began to be used directly by the recipient of the call (perhaps to ask for confirmation that the connection was actually operational).

I'm ready, I'm a switchboard operator

The second hypothesis is less elaborate and could still be linked to the first. In this case the term would have military origin. Since the telephone was initially used primarily by military and law enforcement personnel, “ready” may have been the right word forurgency to communicate concisely and directly. A bit like the “over” and “over and out” that we still use today if we use walkie talkies.