Fact check - private individuals

FACT CHECK: Alexander Graham Bell’s fiancée wasn’t named Margaret Hello


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FACT CHECK: Alexander Graham Bell’s fiancée wasn’t named Margaret Hello
A Facebook post falsely links the origins of the greeting ‘hello’ to the name of the telephone inventor’s girlfriend. Bell’s fiancée and eventual wife was actually named Mabel Hubbard.

Claim: The fiancée of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, was named Margaret Hello, and this led to the customary use of the greeting “hello” in phone calls. 

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim can be found in a July 2 post on the Facebook page “The Fraternal Order of Eagles – Philippine Eagles.” It showed a photo of Bell with a woman along with the question “Bakit ‘Hello’ ang una mong sinasabi kapag tumatawag sa telepono?” (Why is ‘Hello’ the first thing that you say when calling on a phone?)

The post then claims that “hello” originated from the name of Bell’s fiancée, Margaret Hello, and that this was the first word Bell spoke over the phone.  

As of writing, the post had 879 reactions, 83 comments, and 287 shares. 

The facts: Bell’s fiancée was not named Margaret Hello, and “hello” was not what he said in the first-ever phone call.

Bell’s fiancée and eventual wife was Mabel Hubbard, whom Bell married in 1877. She is the woman shown in the picture on the Facebook post. According to an article by Africa Check, Bell had “no such girlfriend” named Margaret Hello.

Furthermore, “hello” wasn’t the first word that Bell used in the first-ever phone call made on March 10, 1876. Instead, his first words were to his assistant Thomas Watson, who was in the adjoining room: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” 


Already in use: The term “hello” was already in use before Bell made the first phone call in 1876; the Oxford English Dictionary traces its first documented uses back to 1826. Merriam-Webster, meanwhile, traces its first use back to the early 1800s and added that it was inventor Thomas Edison who claimed to start using “hello” in phone calls while Bell preferred the alternative “Ahoy” instead. 

Previous fact-checks: The claim linking the origins of “hello” to Bell’s supposed fiancée isn’t new; the fact-checking organization Snopes had debunked the claim in a March 14, 2014 article titled, “The Hello Girl.” Fact Crescendo, meanwhile, has a recent article on the claim  published on June 11. – Percival Bueser/ Rappler.com

Percival Bueser is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. You may also report dubious claims to the #FactsFirstPH tipline by messaging Rappler on Facebook or Newsbreak via Twitter direct message. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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