If you were stuck on a desert island…
Obviously this is a ridiculous, hypothetical situation, but we’ve all seen The Little Mermaid, right? What if she’d been given a single word that she could say to Prince Eric?
In English, all of our salutation words and phrases are different. Hello, hi, good morning, how are you, fine, goodbye, bye, toodle-oo.
In more than a few other languages, the same word can be used for both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. In French, it is ‘salut‘; in Thai it is ‘sawasdee‘; and in Italian it is ‘ciao‘.
Similarly, in French you can use ‘ça va‘ to mean both ‘how are you?’ (informal) and ‘fine’ (or, ‘it goes’).
In Laos and Hawaii, there are even more flexible words. ‘Sabai di‘ (Lao) and ‘aloha‘ (Hawaiian) can be used to mean ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘welcome’, ‘fine’ (in response to ‘how are you?’), and many other things. It’s difficult to establish exactly how many ways they can be used by their local people.
Adding in a question syllable (‘baw‘), an entire conversation can be carried out in Laos thus:
A: Sabai di! (Hello!)
B: Sabai di! (Hello!)
A: Sabai di baw? (How are you?)
B: Sabai di. Sabai di baw? (Fine. How are you?)
B: Sabai di! (Fine!)
Added to this, both the Lao and the Hawaiian peoples are renowned for their friendly nature and hospitality, so maybe they’re onto something.
Perhaps, given the awful hypothetical choice, I’d pick ‘aloha’!