Say Goodbye to ‘Hello’ and Hello to ‘Heaven-o’


In this friendly little ranching town, “Hello” is wearing out its welcome.

And Leonso Canales Jr. is happy as heck.

At his urging, the Kleberg County commissioners have unanimously designated “Heaven-o” as the county’s official greeting.

The reason: “Hello” contains the word “Hell.”

“When you go to school and church, they tell you ‘hell’ is negative and ‘heaven’ is positive,” said the 56-year-old Canales, who owns the Kingsville Flea Market. “I think it’s time that we set a new precedent, to tell our kids that we are positive adults.”


The new salutation, according to the county resolution, is a “symbol of peace, friendship and welcome” in this “age of anxiety.”

On Thursday, courthouse employees were answering the phones, “Heaven-o.” And the Chamber of Commerce was working on a campaign promoting Kingsville, a Rio Grande Valley town of 25,000, as a “heavenly” place to visit.

“People seem to think that it might catch on,” said county Judge Pete De La Garza.

The county boasts the 826,000-acre King Ranch, the most famous in Texas. The ranch raises its own breed of cattle, grows grain and cotton, and has saddle-shop craftsmen who produce leather bags and luggage bearing its brand.

Not everyone is a convert to Kleberg County’s heavenly ways.

“It’s different. I really haven’t heard many people using it, though,” said Lisa Lopez, an assistant manager at a convenience store.

Madolyn Musick, who runs a bookstore, took issue with Canales. She insisted--and linguists would agree--that “hello” has nothing to do with “hell.” Besides, she added, “What’s wrong with, ‘Howdy, y’all?’ ”

Canales, a Catholic but not a regular churchgoer, has been as serious as heck about “Hello” since 1988, when he told his brother he might start greeting people with “God-o.” His brother suggested “Heaven-o” instead.

In November, Canales stepped up his crusade to get the “hell” out of town. He bought classified ads in the Kingsville Record showing “Hello” scratched out and “Heaven-o” printed beneath it.

David Sabrio, a professor of English at Texas A&M; University-Kingsville, noted that the Oxford English Dictionary says “hello” stems from an old German greeting for hailing a boat.

“Linguistically and historically, the word ‘hello’ has no connection at all with what we associate with the underworld,” he said. “People may make that connection in their own mind. I certainly don’t.”

No matter. Canales plans to mail dozens of letters to religious headquarters nationwide to get them to adopt “Heaven-o.”

“They’re the ones who should really jump on this,” he said.