The idea that ghosts can’t say “Moshi, Moshi,” is why people say Moshi, Moshi is most likely a myth. Moshi Moshi is simply an evolution of the telephone hello in Japan. It is sort of like saying “I’m going to talk” twice.
Why Do the Japanese Say “Moshi Moshi” Twice?
Do People Say Moshi Moshi To Prove They Aren’t Ghosts?
There is an idea that the reason “Moshi” is said twice in the Japanese phrase “Moshi Moshi” is that ghosts can’t say “Moshi” twice. Thus, saying “Moshi Moshi” proves you aren’t a ghost. This is unlikely to be the true root of “Moshi Moshi.” It is more likely “Moshi Moshi” is simply an evolution of the telephone hello used by telephone operators.
With that said it isn’t like there is no truth to the Moshi, Moshi myth. The story is passed around and is known in Japan. However, while known, it is not likely to be the etymological root of the reason Moshi is actually said twice.
FACT-ISH: Some people say that the reason Moshi Moshi is used is that foxes can’t say it or that Monsters can’t say it. Keeping in mind that fox spirits are a thing in Japan, the general concept here is that the Moshi Moshi myth is a thing, but the details get changed as it is passed around (which is common for folklore and myths).
TIP: From what I can tell, the idea that Moshi Moshi means you aren’t a ghost got popular in 2009 in the west due to this blog post Why say Moshi Moshi twice? It then made its way to Reddit. The original blog post was a response to a blog post with a more common-sense answer called WHY DO JAPANESE PEOPLE SAY MOSHI MOSHI ON THE PHONE? I am now summing the truth of it all up for you since the Moshi Moshi twice myth seems to have come back again.
What Does Moshi Mean?
The truth is this, “Moshi” means something to the effect of ” I’m going to talk,” and it is an evolution of the “telephone hello” in Japan.Why Japanese Say Moshi Moshi on the Telephone. This guy knows his Moshi Moshi.
The True Story of Moshi Moshi
According to Tofugu.com, the true story behind Moshi works like this:
When telephones first came out in Japan, only rich people had them. The standard telephone hello used when you are talking down to someone (as rich people would naturally do) is “oi oi,” which roughly means “hey you.”
This “oi oi” was adopted by telephone operators and eventually. Thereafter people began to get annoyed by “oi oi” being used as the defacto greeting, and it was changed to a more polite Moushiagemasu.
Moushiagemasu was eventually shortened to mousu mousu.
Now, the reason this story really begins to check out is that the person who came up with “moshi moshi” had his story documented. The man was an electrician who worked for the Ministry of Engineering called Shigenori Katougi. He traveled to the US and learned Americans say “hello.” When he was asked what the Japanese say, instead of trying to explain they either say “moushiagemasu,” “mousu mousu,” or “moushi moushi,” he said they say “Moshi, Moshi.”
This who encounter gave him the idea of a standard telephone hello, which he brought back to Japan. “Moshi moshi” was eventually adopted by all operators and then as the standard telephone hello in Japan.
FACT: Telephones were released on December 16, 1890 in Japan. That date is now known as Telephone Day.
- WHY DO JAPANESE PEOPLE SAY MOSHI MOSHI ON THE PHONE? Tofugu.com.
- Did my teacher make this etymology for もしもし up? Japanese.StackExchange.com.
- Why say Moshi Moshi twice? Gakuranman.com.