Greetings are indispensable in our lives. We use them many times every day to make contact with other people, recognize their presence, and show friendliness.
It is important to remember that the expressions used for greeting people usually do not carry any literal meanings. For example, “what’s up?” does not really mean, “What is up?” It is only an
expression of greetings. Also, remember that a positive response to greetings is usually expected, even if it is not totally true. For instance, if someone greets you by saying, “How are you?”
“Fine.” Is the most appropriate response---even if you are feeling bad.
Greetings vary in their level of formality. Using a greeting that is too formal or too casual for a particular situation is a social error which may be offensive or embarrassing.
There are at least five different styles in English: frozen, formal, consultative, casual, and intimate. The style which is appropriate for a situation depends on the age and the relationship of the people speaking as well as where they are and what they are talking about.
Frozen style is seldom used in normal speaking situation. It is a classic, literary, almost ceremonial style reserved for the most formal occasions, such as declamatory speeches to large audiences. Language in this style is carefully edited and rehearsed. It is used for one-way communication, and the listeners remain social strangers to the speaker.
Formal style is sometimes used in speaking (such as in university lectures and formal introductions), but it is most commonly used in written form-in text and reference books, reports, and business letters. Formal utterances are usually either formulaic (established words and structures are used repeatedly with little edited). Although it is used for communicating information, formal style typically does not allow immediate feedback from listeners. It is a socially detached style for addressing strangers or large groups.
Consultative style the first of two colloquial styles in English is used for two-way communication between people who do not belong to the same social group. It is typical of interactions between a dominant person (such as a professor or a supervisor) and his/her social subordinate (such as a student or a worker). Consultative style allows cooperation and communication without social integration. Conversations in this style are usually not prepared in advance but are composed as they develop.
Casual style is used among members of the same social group (for example, students in the same grade, co-workers in an office, or two teachers who are friends) or for integrating strangers into a social group. Casual conversations are usually not planed, composed, or edited in advance. Rather, they develop through interaction. Their content and direction depend on continuous and immediate feedback from other members of the conversation group.
Intimate style is reserved for members of a small closely related group (such as family or club) or pair (such as a husband and wife, mother and child, or boyfriend and girlfriend). It joins personalities and reflects a cozy relationship. Intimate utterances are abbreviated and minimal, with much of the message left unsaid but understood since the conversational partners are so close. “Insider words,” whose special meanings only the partners understand, are common in intimate style, as are titles which show affection, such as dear, sweetheart, darling, or honey.
Formal style is typically used when people first meet. With the passage of time, as a friendly relationship develops, the style used will become casual. Be careful, however, not to shift styles too quickly. Becoming friendly or casual too soon can be offensive. In the course of a conversation, it is possible to switch or alternative styles, but only from one style to its neighbor.
Do not take more than one step at a time.
Greetings can consist of a statement and/or a question. Used alone, the question (such as how are you?”) seems rather abrupt. Generally, the question comes only after a greetings statement (such as, “Hello.”)
In different regions of the United States and among different ethic groups, non-standard greetings are common. For example, in the West, “Howdy” is a common greeting. In the south,
2people say, “Hi,y’all”and in Hawaii you may greeted with the question, “Howzit?” Some ethnic
groups add special titles also, resulting in greetings such as “Hey, bro.” While it is useful to be
able to recognize these greetings, you should use them cautiously. They often imply a casual or intimate relationship and may be offensive if used by an outsider.