Either way

An excerpt from Roger Green’s Hawaiian omnibus:

Incidentally, “most people think that ‘Aloha’ is a word that means both hello and goodbye” That is not true. “In Hawaiian we say ‘Aloha’ both when greeting someone and also saying goodbye. But that is not to be taken literally. The real meaning of Aloha in Hawaiian is that of Love, Peace, and Compassion.”

There’s a similarly protean word in Hebrew, which was at the center of a joke in David Frye’s I Am The President, a 1969 LP in which Frye plays, among others, Richard M. Nixon. In this setup, Nixon is being briefed on protocol by George Jessel, inasmuch as Golda Meir, then Prime Minister of Israel, was coming to Washington for a state visit.

Jessel: “Now when Mrs Meir comes in, you say ‘Shalom’.”

Nixon: [nods]

Jessel: “And when she leaves, you say ‘Shalom’.”

Nixon: “How do I know which is which?”

Jessel: “If she leaves after you’ve said it, you’ve said goodbye.”

Sometimes, context is everything.

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