Bilingual Post: The Mobile Mystery

In my experience, in most countries people answer the phone using some variant of "Hello". Traditionally, this has not been the case in Germany: You're supposed to answer the phone saying your full or last name. True, there have always been people that answered the phone saying "Hallo" or "Ja" (Hello and Yes, respectively), but in the 2000-plus-books-at-home circles I come from*, this was seen as on par with picking your nose in public.

Here's the strange thing: I have never, ever witnessed anybody answering his or her mobile phone saying his or her name, it's always "Hallo" or "Ja". This is surprising given that one should expect the norms applicable to regular phones to carry over to mobile phones; after all, they're basically the same thing. Why is this so? Three hypotheses:

1. Contrary to regular phones, mobile phones are often answered in public. Saying your name out loud in public is a bit like walking barebreasted in public.

2. The early adopters of mobile phones were disproportionately young people. Young people were always less likely to obey the say-your-name norm.

3. If someone calls whose name and number you've saved, you'll see the name of the caller on your display. Hence there is no need to assure that the caller reached the person he or she wanted to reach.

An interesting question is whether the say-hello norm spills over into the realm of regular phones. Hypothesis: Yes.

*Ein Bekannter von mir ist mal umgezogen aus dem einzigen Grund, dass er keinen Platz für seine Bücher mehr hatte. Noch besser: Die Eltern einer Freundin einer Freundin haben sich mal ein Zweithaus aus diesem Grund gekauft. Die Freundin der Freundin hat dort mal eine Party gemacht. Am nächsten Morgen stand sie vor den Resten des Buffets und rief aus: "Oh nein, die Ernst-Jünger-Erstausgabe ist in den Nudelsalat gefallen!"

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