hey (hā) interj. Used to attract attention or to express surprise, appreciation, wonder, or pleasure.
A recent study* revealed that nearly 87% of Americans with text-message capabilities have at some point received the one-word message "hey" from a friend, family member, or more likely, a potential or existing sexual partner. Statistical research indicates that the ubiquitous "hey" text is becoming increasingly popular on college campuses and among the under-35 demographic. But just what does the "hey" text message imply or convey? When you type those three letters on your cellular phone's keypad or touch screen and hit send, are you saying what you think you are saying?
T.J., a sophomore at Boston University, explained his usage of the "hey" text: "I text a girl 'hey' to let her know I'm feelin' her." And if she responds? "I might follow up with something like, 'what r u doing tonite?'" T.J. went on the explain that he finds texting "hey" is a great way to make "first contact" with a girl.
Hunter College freshman Mike agreed--"'Hey' is nice and neutral," he said. "Same goes for 'yo.'"
Females, however, seemed to disagree about the effectiveness of the one-word text. "Oh my God, I hate getting texted 'hey,' it's so irritating," said Amy, a freshman at Tulane. "I accidentally gave out my number to this weirdo in my I[nternational] R[elations] class who said he was starting a study group. Now he texts me 'hey' like twice a week."
Leah, who just started her junior year at Cornell, felt similarly. She described the "hey" text as "immature and vague" and said she'd prefer interested parties to actually call her to ask her out.
Etymologically, "hey" dates back to the early 13th-century, and is derived either from the Roman eho, or the Greek word, eia. The only modern-day language other than English to use a similar expression is German (hei). In American culture, "hey" is regularly used as a replacement for the more formal-sounding greeting, "hello." "Hey" is a self-contained thought, one that invites a response playfully without demanding it. In the medium of text-messaging, it is often interpreted flirtatiously, as a signifier of romantic interest.
At least, that is what Becca, a sophomore at Sarah Lawrence, is hoping. "I met this awesome guy last night at a Take Back the Night organizational meeting and I think he might want to go out," she explained. "If he texts me 'hey' in the next few days, I'll know he means business."
*There was no study conducted and all of the quotations/names included here are completely fictional. Any similarity to actual undergraduates is entirely unintentional.