Dec 142009

Maa at her desk by ritwikdey.

If I call a colleague in the UK, I’d expect to be greeted with something like ‘Hi Vicki, how are you?’ And it’s much the same in the US. I’d expect a ‘How are you doing?’ and, sure, time is money, so I wouldn’t be thrown off guard by a hard pressed ‘Wazzup?’. In fact I’ve often felt ‘Wazzup?’ had a certain sort ‘down to business’ charm about it.

In Japan folks said ‘Moshi moshi’. In the two years I lived there I had no idea what it meant, but Marisa  Neal and @sugarjo have suggested thinking of it as a handshake.

But I’ve just learnt a new one. Apparently if I call a colleague in India, they would likely greet me with ‘Tell me’. Not ‘Tell me what’s new in your world’ or ‘Tell me why you’re calling’, though clearly that’s the implication. Just a simple ‘Tell me’. And the missing object is intriguing. To my British ear it’s like there’s so little time they can’t even finish the sentence. And wow – they’ve managed to hone it down to really time efficient communication.

I learnt this at another blog, and here’s an extract:

We had an American employee in Infosys who started using ‘Tell me’ in his phone conversations. I asked him why. He said that he heard the phrase a lot when he called his Indian colleagues, so he was getting used to it. Plus it was perfectly understood. When you say ‘Tell me’ it is understood that you want the caller to start talking about what he called you for. No ambiguity there.

I’m not convinced that ambiguity is a bad thing at all, but nevertheless, I think I might be inclined to say ‘Tell me’ if I were that Infosys employee. Would you? And if so, what would be your motives?

 Posted by at 8:37 am

  6 Responses to “Tell me wazzup”

  1. ‘Tell Me’ reminds me what I started doing with my students from the beginning. I will ask a question and then look at a person and say “Talk to me”. Sometimes it gets a laugh, but it is really effective!

  2. I like “Tell me!”. It’s snappy and gets the message across. It also would help in the conundrum I faced when living in the US – when I called someone to ask something, in my usual British way I would spend the first few minutes of the conversation making smalltalk and generally beating about the bush, before getting to reason why I actually called. I was (gently) told after a while that this was really irritating, because when you call someone you can’t know how busy they are and should therefore get right to the point and save the smalltalk for afterwards, since then the person at the other end could make their excuses and hang up if they didn’t have the time for it. So a “Tell me” would have perhaps informed me of this (or reminded me of it, because it was a hard habit to break)

    In Portugal people answer the phone “Estou”, which means “I am”. For some reason I really loved the whole existential depth to that.

  3. Moshi Moshi in Japan. It’s totally meaningless, as far as I know. Of course, if Alexander Graham Bell had had his way, we would all be saying “Ah Hoy Hoy!”

  4. Hi Holly! I’m gonna try that on the next reticent class I have.

  5. Hi Andy! I am.

    Love your observations.

    Sometimes I feel like a bit of a social clutz over here when it comes to greetings and farewells. I never noticed I had a problem in the UK, but it’s like I’m fidgeting about and bumbling around, surrounded by these hugely proficient folks who can accomplish them both so much more smoothly. Sabrina mentioned it in relation to goodbyes before:

    How did they learn this stuff I wonder? And why didn’t my mother teach me?

  6. Ahoy Ahoy Darren!

    After I wrote that, @cuppa_coffee sent me this link via Twitter about Moshi Moshi.

    As you say, they say it’s meaningless. Perhaps it starts meaning something if you don’t say it?

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