It never occurred to me that the invention of the telephone meant people had to invent language to answer it. Good thing the Internet is here to provide such important data!
Check out Maggies Farm. Also note the source at the New York Times which has finally found news that it can report without bias (stuff that dates to 1887, everything since the Age of Aquarius remains malleable).
Apparently “Hello” narrowly entered the lexicon because there had to be some way to greet a person without the hullabaloo of a third party introduction. That bastard Edison favored “Hello” and we all know that Edison, the Bill Gates of his time, was not to be crossed. Edison’s (OK lets just call it what it was; nemesis) Alexander Graham Bell favored a jaunty nautical “Ahoy“. Just for the record I totally dig “ahoy“.
Sadly the manuals of 1878 that suggested “what is wanted” never caught on. I think we’d all be better served by “what is wanted” in 1878, leading to “what the hell do you want” in 1970, eventually degrading to “what the hell do you want asshole” by the gritty 1990s.
Of course, should I pick up the phone (which is almost never) I’ve got a favored greeting. I always respond with a cheery “Curmudgeon residence, if you’re a telemarketer prepare to die“. Try it! You’ll like it.