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Old 29.04.2014, 13:12
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Everyday etiquette

Hi EFers,

I’d like your input on this:
For the past few years, when out and about, I’ve noticed the following: People tend to say “Hallo” when they want someone to understand something. The word which should be used as a way of greeting someone has turned into a way of saying “I beg your pardon?”

This rubs me the wrong way because:
If someone says hello (multiple times, in an exasperated tone) I’ll wonder why they’re saying hello in the first place, since greeting normally is something done in formal, casual or cordial situations, and in those situations it is done with a friendly or neutral undertone, but never an exasperated one.
Saying hello friendly gets a hello back.
Saying hello in an exasperated tone leaves me thinking why they don’t just either not say hello or clarify the want to say “I beg your pardon” with the clear expression “Wie bitte?” which is a thousand times politer and not ambiguous.

/end rant

What do you think?
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Old 29.04.2014, 13:15
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Re: Everyday etiquette

Maybe you need to watch Back to the Future.
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Old 29.04.2014, 13:18
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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What do you think?
I think that Swiss German isn't English and that King Canute got his feet wet.

HTH
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Old 29.04.2014, 13:19
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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Maybe you need to watch Back to the Future.
Allow me..

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Old 29.04.2014, 13:31
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Re: Everyday etiquette

Quote:
Hi EFers,

I’d like your input on this:
For the past few years, when out and about, I’ve noticed the following: People tend to say “Hallo” when they want someone to understand something. The word which should be used as a way of greeting someone has turned into a way of saying “I beg your pardon?”

This rubs me the wrong way because:
If someone says hello (multiple times, in an exasperated tone) I’ll wonder why they’re saying hello in the first place, since greeting normally is something done in formal, casual or cordial situations, and in those situations it is done with a friendly or neutral undertone, but never an exasperated one.
Saying hello friendly gets a hello back.
Saying hello in an exasperated tone leaves me thinking why they don’t just either not say hello or clarify the want to say “I beg your pardon” with the clear expression “Wie bitte?” which is a thousand times politer and not ambiguous.

/end rant

What do you think?
I think that is the worst overanalysis of an uncomplicated situation that I have ever read.
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Old 29.04.2014, 13:38
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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Allow me..
... to add some more.







Or: Hello? Ever heard that the meaning of words can change over time?
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:01
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Re: Everyday etiquette

Quote:
Hi EFers,

I’d like your input on this:
For the past few years, when out and about, I’ve noticed the following: People tend to say “Hallo” when they want someone to understand something. The word which should be used as a way of greeting someone has turned into a way of saying “I beg your pardon?”

This rubs me the wrong way because:
If someone says hello (multiple times, in an exasperated tone) I’ll wonder why they’re saying hello in the first place, since greeting normally is something done in formal, casual or cordial situations, and in those situations it is done with a friendly or neutral undertone, but never an exasperated one.
Saying hello friendly gets a hello back.
Saying hello in an exasperated tone leaves me thinking why they don’t just either not say hello or clarify the want to say “I beg your pardon” with the clear expression “Wie bitte?” which is a thousand times politer and not ambiguous.

/end rant

What do you think?
I think it's an interesting (and very common) linguistic situation.

For example, in English, we use excuse me for two very different purposes. Sometimes it means "you are in my way, would you please move" and other times it means "hey, you there, I need to get your attention for a minute". For instance, if you saw someone getting off the train without his umbrella you might say "excuse me" to draw his attention so you could point it out.

Another example in English: sorry means either "can you repeat that, I didn't hear you" or "what I just did was an accident, please don't take any notice" or even "I am about to break a social rule (e.g. reach into/through your personal space) so please don't be surprised or offended." And none of these uses has very much at all to do with the word's meaning in a longer sentence, e.g. with your being sorry to hear that a friend lost her job.

If none of this seems particularly ambiguous to us, it's only because we're so well used to it. I can tell you that it drives beginning learners of English absolutely up the wall - every bit as mind-bending as the fact that German bitte means both "please" and "you're welcome".

German's much the same. The mapping is different - in this case it's hallo that does double duty, as a greeting and as a generic attention-getter - but the idea's the same. You have a handful of stock polite phrases, and a much bigger handful of social situations for them to cover. The result is that most of the standard phrases have to work overtime. I don't want to generalize but my suspicion is that it's the same in most languages.

Good rant though
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:05
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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... to add some more.







Or: Hello? Ever heard that the meaning of words can change over time?
Of course it can, but I'd be happy if people didn't get all pissy when I decide not to respond to a "Hallo?" spat in my direction. Unfortunately, this isn't the case all too often. In general, if you can't interact politely (tone of voice is very important in my book), don't expect me to react the way you want.
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:09
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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German's much the same. The mapping is different - in this case it's hallo that does double duty, as a greeting and as a generic attention-getter - but the idea's the same. You have a handful of stock polite phrases, and a much bigger handful of social situations for them to cover. The result is that most of the standard phrases have to work overtime. I don't want to generalize but my suspicion is that it's the same in most languages.

Good rant though
In addition, and perhaps what gives it its "grate" with the OP is that to a native English speaker, you can use the word "helloooo?" with a kind of "WTF?" connotation, which can feel a bit cringeworthy when a Migros cashier lets loose with a loud "haalloooo!" when you've walked off leaving a packet of chewing gum behind after packing up your shopping.
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:09
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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I think it's an interesting (and very common) linguistic situation.

For example, in English, we use excuse me for two very different purposes. Sometimes it means "you are in my way, would you please move" and other times it means "hey, you there, I need to get your attention for a minute". For instance, if you saw someone getting off the train without his umbrella you might say "excuse me" to draw his attention so you could point it out.

You could also just say: "Sir/Ma'am, you forgot your umbrella." Straight forward and to the point while not being impolite.

Another example in English: sorry means either "can you repeat that, I didn't hear you" or "what I just did was an accident, please don't take any notice" or even "I am about to break a social rule (e.g. reach into/through your personal space) so please don't be surprised or offended." And none of these uses has very much at all to do with the word's meaning in a longer sentence, e.g. with your being sorry to hear that a friend lost her job.

If none of this seems particularly ambiguous to us, it's only because we're so well used to it. I can tell you that it drives beginning learners of English absolutely up the wall - every bit as mind-bending as the fact that German bitte means both "please" and "you're welcome".

German's much the same. The mapping is different - in this case it's hallo that does double duty, as a greeting and as a generic attention-getter - but the idea's the same. You have a handful of stock polite phrases, and a much bigger handful of social situations for them to cover. The result is that most of the standard phrases have to work overtime. I don't want to generalize but my suspicion is that it's the same in most languages.

Good rant though
Thanks

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... to add some more.







Or: Hello? Ever heard that the meaning of words can change over time?
Of course it can, but I'd be happy if people didn't get all pissy when I decide not to respond to a "Hallo?" spat in my direction. Unfortunately, this isn't the case all too often.

In general, if you can't interact politely(tone of voice is very important in my book), don't expect me to react the way you want.

Quote:
In addition, and perhaps what gives it its "grate" with the OP is that to a native English speaker, you can use the word "helloooo?" with a kind of "WTF?" connotation, which can feel a bit cringeworthy when a Migros cashier lets loose with a loud "haalloooo!" when you've walked off leaving a packet of chewing gum behind after packing up your shopping.
Precisely. IMO that is rude as hell. Whatever happened to the "Exgüsi, Sie händ Ihre Kaugummi vergässe"?
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:30
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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Precisely. IMO that is rude as hell. Whatever happened to the "Exgüsi, Sie händ Ihre Kaugummi vergässe"?
But Exgüsi is already spoken for! It's the generic phrase for "here, let me reach/squeeze past you a minute".

Why does it seem less rude to you for exgüsi to double up as a generic "hey you" than it does for hallo to do so?

(By the way, there's an exquisite little difference in emphasis even when used in the spatial sense. English excuse me demands a physical response, you move aside as a token gesture even if there is already enough space, Swiss exgüsi just means you check if there is enough space: if there already is, you do nothing. I suspect everyday trifles like this are at the core of much sincere frustration about locals' perceived lack of spatial awareness and for all I know vice versa.)
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:42
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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I think it's an interesting (and very common) linguistic situation.

For example, in English, we use excuse me for two very different purposes. Sometimes it means "you are in my way, would you please move" and other times it means "hey, you there, I need to get your attention for a minute". For instance, if you saw someone getting off the train without his umbrella you might say "excuse me" to draw his attention so you could point it out.

Another example in English: sorry means either "can you repeat that, I didn't hear you" or "what I just did was an accident, please don't take any notice" or even "I am about to break a social rule (e.g. reach into/through your personal space) so please don't be surprised or offended." And none of these uses has very much at all to do with the word's meaning in a longer sentence, e.g. with your being sorry to hear that a friend lost her job.

If none of this seems particularly ambiguous to us, it's only because we're so well used to it. I can tell you that it drives beginning learners of English absolutely up the wall - every bit as mind-bending as the fact that German bitte means both "please" and "you're welcome".

German's much the same. The mapping is different - in this case it's hallo that does double duty, as a greeting and as a generic attention-getter - but the idea's the same. You have a handful of stock polite phrases, and a much bigger handful of social situations for them to cover. The result is that most of the standard phrases have to work overtime. I don't want to generalize but my suspicion is that it's the same in most languages.

Good rant though
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But Exgüsi is already spoken for! It's the generic phrase for "here, let me reach/squeeze past you a minute".

Why does it seem less rude to you for exgüsi to double up as a generic "hey you" than it does for hallo to do so?

(By the way, there's an exquisite little difference in emphasis even when used in the spatial sense. English excuse me demands a physical response, you move aside as a token gesture even if there is already enough space, Swiss exgüsi just means you check if there is enough space: if there already is, you do nothing. I suspect everyday trifles like this are at the core of much sincere frustration about locals' perceived lack of spatial awareness and for all I know vice versa.)
Exgüsi (attention-getter) with the reason for the attention-getter added in the same sentence (in a polite tone of voice) IMO isn't rude as opposed to the "Hello?!" spat at me IMHO implicitly expecting me to know what the problem is. With my phrase (Exgüsi, the problem is blablabla) I don't expect anyone to know what I want to tell them, I tell them what I want to tell them straightaway (e.g. "you forgot your umbrella"). Leaving the "exgüsi" out of the sentence is OK if I tell someone specifically what the issue is (e.g. "Sir/Ma'am, you forgot your umbrella").

Yakking "hey you!" at someone and glaring at them is very different from saying "excuse me sir, I'd like to point out that issue A is a problem at the moment."
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:44
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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If none of this seems particularly ambiguous to us, it's only because we're so well used to it. I can tell you that it drives beginning learners of English absolutely up the wall - every bit as mind-bending as the fact that German bitte means both "please" and "you're welcome".
Do not forget the 'bitteeee?' Which means the same as the English 'halloooo?' .

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But Exgüsi is already spoken for! It's the generic phrase for "here, let me reach/squeeze past you a minute".
It is better to use a proper Germanic pronaunced 'tschuldigung! Specially if the people to be disturbed do not know you. (Sorry I am evil )
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:45
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Re: Everyday etiquette

Another one is "Was?" instead of "wie bitte?".
A waitress in a cafe said it to us in a cafe whe she didn't hear, or understand, our order properly. It sounds so rude!
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:54
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Re: Everyday etiquette

According to QI, "Hello" or "Hallo" was originally used (in English) as an expression of surprise, bemusement etc. e.g. "Hello, what do we have here then?". Maybe this use has been retained in German in the example described by the OP?

Or maybe not. I just wanted to show I watch such (somewhat) highbrow programmes such as QI, HIGNFY etc.
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:55
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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Yakking "hey you!" at someone and glaring at them is very different from saying "excuse me sir, I'd like to point out that issue A is a problem at the moment."
I think it's just to our anglo-saxon ears that it sounds harsh, though. The German language is indeed direct and if they started nancying around with verb formations like "would you possibly mind..." to them it would sound a bit disjointed and wishy washy.

The other one that jars is where they address you as simply "Sie!" which to my tender English ears translates directly and harshly as "Oi, you!" but it's just the differences in the lingo and its usage and not, as it sounds, like you've been caught doing something naughty like stealing apples off trees.
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:57
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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Yakking "hey you!" at someone and glaring at them is very different from saying "excuse me sir, I'd like to point out that issue A is a problem at the moment."
That's your perception though.

Imagine for a minute that you are a Migros cashier. Half of the customers in this line are sirs and the other half are ma'ams, so that's no help. You don't know their names. Oh, and you're not able to leave your register to approach a customer or touch his arm or whatever.

How do you get the attention of someone who is on the point of departing without his purchases?

You basically have two options:
1. Say something to him, loudly and nonconversationally enough that he realizes you mean him and not the customer who was in line behind him and who you'd now normally be talking to. Once you've got his attention, you can go on to tell him what the problem is. (You might not even have to though, chances are he'll spot it himself.)
2. Make eye contact while explaining the problem, again so he knows you mean him. But to do this you have to get him to turn round... see 1.

I'm not denying grumpy exasperated cashiers do exist, but I think you are probably reading more into this interaction than is really there.
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Old 29.04.2014, 14:59
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Re: Everyday etiquette

I think you're referring to the "haallo" said in the tone of voice that makes it sound to me as if you are actually saying "hey you there, are you an idiot". I used to teach Swiss German 7 and 8 year olds and this usage really did strike me as unpleasant coming from young kids. But it wasn't the potential corruption of the meaning of the word "hello" more the intention of the user as evidenced by the tone employed.
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Old 29.04.2014, 15:00
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Re: Everyday etiquette

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I think it's just to our anglo-saxon ears that it sounds harsh, though. The German language is indeed direct and if they started nancying around with verb formations like "would you possibly mind..." to them it would sound a bit disjointed and wishy washy.

The other one that jars is where they address you as simply "Sie!" which to my tender English ears translates directly and harshly as "Oi you!"but it's just the differences in the lingo and its usage.
That reminds me of when my sister and family visited us a few years ago. A rather nice looking young waiter in a pizza restaurant on their campsite said " Hoi" to my little niece (she had a bit of a crush on him). She that he was saying "Oi!" and was upset that he was telling her off, until I explained.
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Old 29.04.2014, 15:07
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Re: Everyday etiquette

It can rub me up the wrong way too.

It's a shame that the German language can twist the most basic of all civilised greetings into an insult.

Whether thats anything to do with German culture is something I'd rather not get into :-)
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