I don’t know what I was reading, but I stumbled upon a link to a 1992 clip in the New York Times that explained where the word “hello” comes from, and I didn’t buy it. From my Simpsons-watching, I knew that “ahoy” had once been in the running as the standard telephonic greeting, but surely the word “hello” had existed prior to its adoption as step one of proper phone etiquette.
A quick search in my dictionary says that it’s derived from the 16th century word “holla” which comes from the French “holà.” This made my brain explode in several directions at once. First, seeing it like that, it’s clear that the Spanish word “hola” comes from French. Second, “là” means “there,” so it actually translates as “hey there.” Third, like so many things in life, I was reminded of The Princess Bride and the scene when Inigo is drunk in the Forbidden Forest, “waiting for Vizzini.” A member of the Brute Squad comes upon him and says, “ho, there!” which isn’t that remarkable, except that I always thought there was a secret joke slipped in here. Inigo’s reply is either, “keep your ‘ho, there'” or, as I suspect, a little bit of wordplay since Mandy Patinkin‘s Spanish accent makes it sound as if he says “joder” which is Spanish slang for, as the Real Academia Española says, “to practice coitus.” My interpretation is that Inigo’s saying, “go fuck yourself” and no one, especially not the MPAA, was any the wiser.