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Hello/Hi, Highbrow/lowbrow, Toast, Slang

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March 15th, 2017
Two champagne flutes clinking together in a toast

Hello/Hi

Of all the words in the English language, “hello” and “hi” are among the most inconspicuous simply because we use them so often. They are also among that small group of words that require no definition—no explanation. 

One might assume they’ve always been part of our vocabulary, but they haven’t. 

In fact, some sources date the first usage of “hello” to the 1820s, with its earliest known published appearance being 1833 in an American book titled The Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett, of West Tennessee.

Not until the 1860s did “hello” fall into common usage. What’s more, its shortened successor “hi” didn’t come along until the debut of the telephone.

“Hello to you, my friend.”

Highbrow/lowbrow

When we designate someone or something as highbrow/lowbrow, we’re saying that a person or thing is culturally sophisticated/unsophisticated, respectively. For instance, we may refer to a gathering of socialites as a “highbrow” affair or to a lewd joke as “lowbrow” humor.

The terms themselves come from the pseudoscience of phrenology (the study of the shape and surface texture of the human head). Within this field, it was initially thought that a low brow was indicative of a low IQ, and a high brow, the opposite.

In time, this belief evolved into a popular reference to sophistication or a lack thereof.

“The Plaza hotel is a highbrow establishment.”

“This pub has lowbrow clientele.”

Toast

We all know what a toast is—the clinking of glasses (usually wine or champagne), along with happy wishes to all of those present. 

But why do we call this a toast? The answer is a bit strange. 

Centuries ago, it wasn’t uncommon to drop a piece of toasted bread into one’s wine glass to absorb and filter out sediments that adversely affected the wine’s taste. Over the years, filtration improved and the actual use of toast was abandoned. 

The term, however, endures today.

“At the beginning of dinner, we raised our glasses in a toast to the cook.”

Slang

Here’s a quick but nonetheless interesting one. 

Most of us use slang on a daily basis because it’s easier. After all it’s shorter, hence the word’s origin. “Slang” is a shortened version of “shortened language.”

“Before bed, I put on my PJs.”

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