In the 500 meters/metres between our house and the school, we face a constant stream of parents (known and slightly known) heading in the other direction. (Yes, we're always among the last to arrive. Neither G nor I are morning people.) And, minus conversation between Grover and me about who has the smallest hands in her class, here's approximately how the school run went:
Evie's dad*: Good morning.
Rosie's dad: Morning!
Somebody's (BrE) mum: G'morning!
Teacher at the gate: Morning!
*These people may have actual names. I may even know some of them. But your own name shrivels in relevance when you are a parent.
I said the only hellos and everyone else said a variation on good morning. I've two things to say about that:
- Hello originated in the US in the early 19th century, and though the British use it plenty (--as adverb, mostly AmE) these days, I wonder if in Britain it may retain a tinge (just a [AmE] smidgen! a tiny, tiny, tiny bit!) more of its etymological link with surprise. Oh, hello! Hallo, halloa, hullo were British, but came a bit later than hello in AmE--first OED cite is by Charles Dickens--a year before he started travel(l)ing in the US. Hello only really got going as a greeting after the invention of the telephone, and that spread its use to the UK and elsewhere. For more on its forms and etymology, see the Online Etymology Dictionary.
- I feel like, where I'm from (western NY state), one only really says good morning right after someone gets out of bed. It's something you say to people who are still in their pajamas/pyjamas, before they've had their coffee. When it's directed at me by members of my family (for it's only usually your family who sees you in your (AmE) pj's/(BrE) jim-jams), one hears a good dose of sarcasm, as in "Isn't it nice of you to join the waking world three hours after the rest of us got up?". I might be able to imagine a telemarketer saying good morning to me on the phone, and I see people using it to start the day on social media, but I doubt I'd hear it much from colleagues or people I pass on the street.
I tweeted about this this morning, and I've had some Americans agree that good morning is something you say only to people with noticeable (orig. AmE) bedhead (from Arizona, New Mexico, [?] Sussex), and others not (all in the midwest: Illinois, Iowa, Missouri). I was willing to bet there would be regional variation in this--but Midwest wasn't a region I was betting on. (I lived in central Illinois for five years, and I don't recall feeling affronted or surprised by many people's good mornings, but I was a (AmE) grad student, so maybe I only got up in the afternoons.) Many aspects of manners are more 'British-like' in the US South, and in areas where there's a lot of Spanish, there might be (what linguists call) interference from buenos dias. But since the people agreeing with me come from very Spanish-influenced areas, perhaps not. The New Mexico tweeter summed up how I'd react:
I started this post when it was still morning, but now it's not, so I've moved on to thinking about good day. If I hear it in my head, it's in a sort of brusque RP accent. Good day, old chaps! But when I look for it with punctuation on either side in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, I find it occurs at a 4-times-greater rate than in the British National Corpus. (The Corpus of Historical American English tells us it's been dying out since the 19th century. Perhaps hello is to blame--though good day is used for both 'hello' and 'goodbye'.) This is a lesson for those who insist that such-and-such a word is "used by Americans/Britons because I can hear the accent in my head". Your head is unreliable. (This was the subject of an online debate I had recently--which I'll probably blog about soon.) Our preconceptions about our language can be a lot stronger than our factual knowledge about it.@lynneguist oh gosh definitely true for me. if someone tells me "good morning", my first thought is "wow, I must look like I just woke up"— Manuel Fernandez (@maf654321) March 11, 2016
I'll leave you with this, which is now stuck in my head, and which my mother used to sing in some perverse effort to make me less grumpy in the morning. You can imagine how well that worked on teenage me.