Who remembers when and how "Alright?" became a greeting in UK English?
Do you remember the first time you heard it? Can you remember when that was? What was the context? Was there a particular celebrity or TV show that made it so popular?
I've been living out of the UK for 8 years and was baffled when I returned recently to find shop assistants asking me if I was alright. Oddly in a northern accent, even here in the south - "Ya alright?" The first time this happened I answered,"I'm fine" and they turned away and served someone else - so that's not the right answer! I never heard it when I used to live in UK and still have no idea how to respond. I assumed it was a northern expression popularized by soaps such as Coronation Street.
Alright or all right (UK, informal) Generic greeting. "All right" apparently comes from a question (i.e. "are you all right?", "are things all right?") so it seems like more of a synonym for how are you. Then again, a response is often not expected. –
All right used as a greeting: ‘hello’, ‘how are you?’ appears to have a quite old origin. OED cites a usage as early as 1868:
- 1868 D. M. Mulock in Good Words June 335/2 William's first greeting at his own door was always his wife's face... ‘All right, my darling?’
- 1943 R. Sullivan Dark Continent v. 41 ‘Awright, pal!’ the bartender called to him. ‘What'll it be?’
- 1989 Financial Times 20 May (Weekend Suppl.) p. xxiii/1 She looked this imposing gentleman straight in the eye..and said: ‘Alright, mate?’
- 2004 C. Bateman Driving Big Davie xii. 117 He came up, smiling. ‘All right? I was looking for you.’
- All right? - This is used a lot around London and the south to mean, "Hello, how are you"? You would say it to a complete stranger or someone you knew. The normal response would be for them to say "All right"? back to you. It is said as a question. Sometimes it might get expanded to "all right mate"? Mostly used by blue collar workers but also common among younger people.
A note on British vs American usage:
- This affectionate phrase can leave some Americans feeling slightly paranoid, as they might perceive alright, mate! to be a question, rather than a casual greeting. In other words, saying alright, mate! to an American tourist might lead them to think you're asking them if they're feeling okay. Oddly enough, the American equivalent of this phrase is what's up, dude!, which conversely leaves us Brits feeling paranoid for much the same reason. Alright, mate! = what's up, dude!
Though I am unable to supply a date, the origins of “alright,” in the OP’s sense, lie in African-American/Brit Vernacular English (aka: ebonics). “Alright,” or any of its variations have significant currency in urban minority and hip white communities, and prison/jail populations. Examining the origin and meaning of this word is not simple as there are numerous articulations that share subtle commonalities and differences, based upon context, most notably in the Jamaican patois. Here are a few (from the U.S.).
08) Instead of saying "hello" or "hi" anymore, some socially hip people decided to use "Alright" accompanied by the famous "sup" nod as a way of communicating to lesser mortals.
Some people think that when someone says "Alright?" to them, they should respond with how they are. Do not do this. You will be exposed as an uneducated idiot.
11) A common greeting, and response to a greeting, in the New Orleans, Louisiana area. Can be used interchangeably with other common greetings, such as where y'at and what it is. Often heard from passers-by on the street. All versions and variations found in The Urban Dictionary
Whether with or without complete knowledge of its esoteric interpretations, this expression can be used as a greeting or response alternative for hello, all right, good, fine, I’m alright, etc. However, on deeper level its origins are far more spiritual.
Irie is a Jamaican noun meaning good, excellent, great and good quality. Rastafarian “I-dren” (brethren) have their own language and one word that you will hear frequently is “Irie.” Rastafaris developed their own version of the Jamaican dialect in which “I” is a frequent prefix. For example “I and I” or “I-man” meaning (RELATIONSHIP) I or myself and “I-dren” meaning children or brethren.
• “I and I” simultaneously means (1) you and I (2) the Great Spirit or All That Is. Use as you would ‘I’ but carries the additional "flavor" of a radical-inclusivity.
• “Ites” means the heights of "I and I."
• “Irie” is an adjective form of “Ites,” meaning the same thing.
• “Yes I” is a Rasta term meaning "positive vibration."
Rastas also believe in the concept of "One Love" meaning, everyone should have the same love for everything, i.e., yourself, family, humans, animals, nature, etc. This concept and belief ties in very closely with the concept of "I and I" because it once again stresses the evils of its contrast, i.e., separation.
"I" as prefix also makes any word become more spiritual and sacred. "Irie" is a great example of this, because "Irie" is the ultimate positive.
Antonym: Hurtin (ebonic spelling), English "hurting" meaning, in need of something, i.e., "He is hurtin" (in need of relief) from some type of physical, emotional, spiritual separation, deprivation of well-being, or "pain."
While I have had difficulty authoritatively documenting some of what I assert, due to either or both a paucity of documentation or my rudimentary computer-skills, all that I have chosen to include here is based upon personal experience.
Thank you for your interest in this question.
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