What does “Moshi Moshi” Mean?


“Moshi Moshi” is probably something you’ve seen or heard before. In Japanese, it’s used when answering the telephone, and roughly means “hello” or “hi.” You’re not really going to see this word used off the phone too much (though there are a couple of weird exceptions, see video below), so we’re going to focus on that. Learning to use “moshi moshi” when answering the phone is the easy part (you didn’t think I’d let you go that easily, did you?). Let’s find out why Japanese say “moshi moshi” when answering their phone, that’s the bedazzler.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6Ic-eG-MwU']

If you don’t want to watch the highly entertaining (and cat telemarketer including) video above, here are the explanations in writing as well:

1. Foxes Can’t Pronounce Moshi Moshi


I’m not entirely convinced by this explanation. I have heard it in a couple of different places, but it could just as easily be a nasty rumor (probably spread around by a fox). Foxes, at least in Japanese fairy tales, are sneaky little buggers. They do things like turn into beautiful women, marry you, then screw you over (detect any spite in my words? You should.). They steal stuff, they mess with important things, and in general, are pretty tricky. Apparently, one reason “Moshi Moshi” is used, is because it’s difficult to say for a fox. So, if you say it on the phone, you can confirm whether or not you’re getting tricked. This works on telemarketers as well.

2. It’s the Operator’s Fault


Another explanation, one that seems more likely (though a lot less entertaining), is one I read about over here. Until 1890 (didn’t even know phones existed back then), people would say “oi oi” (おいおい) when answering the phone. In 1890, the operators switched over to saying “Moshi Moshi.” The kanji (申し申し) means “I’m going to say” or even more literally “say say.” It is just the humble form of iimasu (言います).

Either way, In all honestly, it probably doesn’t matter why people say “Moshi Moshi” when answering the phone. Why does “hi” mean “hi”? Why does “dog” mean “dog”? Who cares? I know this guy (with two thumbs) doesn’t.

So, which one do you like best? I’m putting my vote in for Mr. Fox. All you linguist majors can vote for number two.

P.S. Here’s some more Kublai Khan Footage. Also, my J-Blogging buddy the Gakuranman tells us why you have to say “Moshi” twice when answering the phone, instead of once!

  • ramenannonymous

    No I saw it in Guilty Crown too. Ayase used it when two people were kind of spacing out. But I think its one of those things like, if you’re a native then its okay for you just because they assume you did it on purpose. But if you’re a non-native then they think you did it accidentally or because you didn’t know better :/
    Kinda sucks, I think Moshi moshi, sounds pretty cool

  • Durk

    They were probably saying irashaimase, or ‘”welcome”. Sounds similar though.

  • http://digitalblogindia.in/ Kunal

    Yes it was Irashaimase, my friend helped me figure that out :-) Thanks again


    Thanks’ I FINALLY proved my older brother wrong HA he doesn’t know Japanese he knows German so why does he get to talk lol

  • Melanie Kay Gowing

    Well… thats kinda scary actually :O