Why do Japanese people use Moshi Moshi when talking on the phone?

Have you ever noticed that when answering a phone or cell phone, the Japanese speak moshi moshi? Does this expression really mean hello? In this article, we will understand the origin of the expression moshi moshi, its real meaning, where and when to use it.

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What does Moshi Moshi mean?

According to the Japanese dictionary, the word moshi moshi [もしもし] means hello on the phone or hello, and it also means excuse me! to call someone... Like when the person is daydreaming and you try to get their attention by saying, hello, is anyone there?

Read also: How to translate and learn Japanese using jisho?

It is believed that the word originated from the verb mousu [申す] which means to say, call, speak and do. Categorized as kenjougo , a humble form. Throughout the article you will understand more about the meaning of this verb and how to use it.

It is also believed that moshi moshi has roots from the expression takenshimasu [と申します] which means “my name is…” or “my name…”, this makes a lot of sense, but both have origins from the verb mousu [申す].

The verb mousu [申す] was often used in the Edo period when speaking to someone of higher status. Initially, the words used were moushiagemasu [申し上げます], moushimasu [申します] where they both mean “I will say (speak)”.

Eventually, it was shortened to moushi [申し] and was used to get someone's attention, as if it were a “ hey! ” or “ I will speak! “. Later it was shortened even further, in Japanese moshi , but only when using the word twice [もしもし].

申し上げます > 申します > 申す > 申し
Why do the Japanese use "moshi moshi" when speaking on the phone?

Why is Moshi Moshi on the phone?

This word and expression seems a little big for someone who is used to saying hi, hello or hello. Why do the Japanese use it? Why repeat it twice? There are different stories to arrive at this custom.

Many end up not realizing it, but moshi moshi is said most of the time by the caller, usually the person who answers just says hai [はい]. Both can say moshi moshi when you want to get attention, not listening or to check if the person is on the line.

It is believed that during the time when the telephone system was being implemented in Japan, during the tests they would say "Mousu Mousu", which literally means "talk talk" as if they were testing the equipment by saying, testing 1,2,3...

Why do the Japanese use "moshi moshi" when speaking on the phone?

Kitsune - Foxes Can't Speak Moshi Moshi

Legend has it that kitsune yokai foxes that usually transform into humans cannot speak moshi twice. According to folklore, foxes cannot speak words completely, giving rise to the custom of speaking moshi twice.

Read also: Kitsune - Foxes in Japanese Culture

Another story is that ghosts cannot say moshi twice, so this expression was used twice to scare ghosts or yokai who answered the phone. If someone didn't say moshi twice, it was probably a ghost.

Fairy Tail's Sagittarius has a habit of ending his sentences with moshi moshi . He probably uses this ending to get attention, like Naruto's dattebayo . Who doesn't remember Link from the Zelda cartoon saying “Excuse me Princess?” . The word moshi moshi can also mean excuse me , it is as if Sagittarius is saying: “excuse me ! I'm talking... ”.

Read also: Dattebayo - The true meaning of Naruto's speech

Why do the Japanese use "moshi moshi" when speaking on the phone?
japanese foxes

The History of the Telephone in Japan

On December 16, 1890, telephones were first introduced in Japan. Today, that date is phone denwa no hi [電話の日] day. At the time, only rich people could pay over the phone. Being wealthy, they were used to talking badly about others.

In the old days, people used to say oioi [おいおい] when answering the phone. The person on the other end would respond with Hai, you gozaimasu [はい、良うございます] which means something like “ yes, I'm ready ”, meaning that the person receiving the call is ready to talk.

This oioi ended up irritating the telephone operators, which caused the custom to change to moushimasu which later became mousu mousu and finally moshi moshi began to be used by female telephone operators, and in the end was chosen as a general greeting.

The person who made the change was Shigenori Katougi (加藤木重教). He was an electrician for the Ministry of Engineering and went to work for Anaka Seisakusho (田中製作所). He traveled to the United States in 1889 to study its telephone system.

Why do the Japanese use "moshi moshi" when speaking on the phone?
L from Death Note answering the phone!

Japanese phone phrases

Below are some Japanese phrases to learn to talk on the phone:

Tanaka-san no otaku desu ka?

Is it [name]'s residence?

Moshimoshi Yamada iindesu.

Hello, this is Dr. Yamada.

Moshimoshi, kochira wa maikudesu.

Hi, this is Mike.

Hai, sou desu.

Yes it is.

Chotto Omachi kudasai.

One moment please.

Donata desu ka?

Who is calling?

Shitsurei desu ga, dochira sama desu ka?

Who is talking?

Nanika otsutae shimashou ka?

Can you give me a message?

Dengon o onegaishimasu

please leave a message

Mousugu modoru to omoimasu.

Soon he/she will be back

Mata denwa shimasu to otsutae kudasai.

Tell him/her I'll call you later

Sumimasen, Machigaemashita.

Sorry, I dialed the wrong number

すみません, ただいま外出しております.
Sumimasen, Tadaima gaishutsu shite orimasu

Sorry, he's not here at the moment.

Denwa Bango wa nan ban desu ka?

What is your phone number?

Iie chigaimasu.

No, you called the wrong number.

Hanashi-chuu desu.

It's just getting busy.

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