The last time "hail fellow well met" was discussed on AUE was in 1999, in a very short thread which petered out almost before it began. Skitt (the same one as now?) quoted a dictionary as follows-

THE DICTIONARY OF PHRASE AND FABLE BY E. COBHAM BREWER FROM THE NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION OF 1894
Hail-fellow-well-met (A). One on easy, familiar terms. (See Jockey .)
To me, this is an incorrect definition. Plain wrong. A hail-fellow-well-met character is someone who turns up at a party driving an open-top sports car, comes into the room, slaps an acquaintance on the back in an over-intimate way, and says "Hi, Harry, I haven't seen you for at least a couple of years! How're you doing? You look brown, just back from your holidays? Where ya been?" Just as Harry are about to launch into a description of his holiday in Majorca, our character spots Mike at the other end of the room. "Oh, there's Mike. Must go and talk to him!" And that's the last Harry will see of him at that party. Mike doesn't see much more of him than Harry did, because he then spots Frank. And so it goes on.
Hail-fellow-well-met (adjective) is therefore a quality of extroversion combined with a tendency to make many shallow friendships, and a certain amount of popularity-seeking. Also, the personality trait includes a dash of insincerity.
The term seems to me, instinctively, to be 100% BrE. I don't know quite why my instinct tells me that the term is exclusive to Britain, and not used in USA, but it does. So I have two questions:-

1. What special charateristics does the adjective "hail-fellow-well-met"have, that might cause my instinct to hypothesise that this is exclusively British?

2. Is my instinct correct in this intuition?

Richard Chambers Leeds UK.
The last time "hail fellow well met" was discussed on AUE was in 1999, in a very short thread which ... might cause my instinct to hypothesise that this is exclusively British? 2. Is my instinct correct in this intuition?

AHD gives a definition:
Heartily friendly and congenial.
It doesn't make any comment about it being a British term. I've read it in US material, though I don't think I've ever heard it at all. The AHD definition agrees with that of the Prase and Fable dictionary, and doesn't give any hint of a connotation of insincerity. Nevertheless, my feeling of the term includes the insincerity, and I wonder if it isn't something about my personality that reads (overly) into 'heartily friendly' and 'familiar'.

john
The last time "hail fellow well met" was discussed on AUE was in 1999, in a very short thread which ... doesn't see much more of him than Harry did, because he then spots Frank. And so it goes on. snip

Just for the record, my understanding of the phrase has always been in agreement with Brewer's definition. I'm over 60, and learned my English in the NYC area from a Scottish mother and a native NYer step-father.
I have never heard "Hail-fellow-well-met" used to describe what I would consider a fulsome character, or more colloquially a "glad-hander".
Brian Wickham
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The phrase is familiar, mainly from books, and possibly from speakers on television discussions. I don't remember it ever being used in conversation. I take a picture much like yours of a fellow breezing in and being demonstrative and full voiced. I don't think the insincerity is a necessity, although it is probably common because there are a lot of social copycats around. It sounds like a phrase used comfortably by a previous generation.

Richard Maurer To reply, remove half
Sunnyvale, California of a homonym of a synonym for also.
AHD gives a definition: Heartily friendly and congenial. It doesn't make any comment about it being a British term. I've ... the insincerity, and I wonder if it isn't something about my personality that reads (overly) into 'heartily friendly' and 'familiar'.

I also don't recall encountering the phrase in speech, though I've certainly read it in both US and British sources. My connotation of the term is somewhat midway between yours and Richard Chambers'. Fulsome, perhaps too friendly-seeming.

denny
Some people are offence kleptomaniacs whenever they see an offence that isn't nailed down, they take it ;-) David C. Pugh, in alt.callahans
> The phrase is familiar, mainly from books, and possibly from speakers on television discussions. I don't remember ... because there are a lot of social copycats around. It sounds like a phrase used comfortably by a previous generation.

I got curious as to the origin of the phrase was it perhaps used in some well-known poem? Apparently not. Bartlett's Quotations of 1919 points to Jonathan Swift's "My Lady's Lamentations." This turns out to be a long piece of doggerel from 1728 with the phrase buried rather meaninglessly in the middle:
http://www.gosford.co.uk/swift.html#lament
... Hail fellow, well met,
All dirty and wet:
Find out, if you can,
Who's master, who's man;
Who makes the best figure,
The Dean or the digger;
And which is the best
At cracking a jest.
Somehow I don't think this was enough to keep the phrase alive in the popular imagination. The context conveys no meaning of acting in a friendly manner, falsely or otherwise.
The phrase doesn't turn up in the ballads at Digital Traditions, either. Could it have survived strictly orally, as a memory of the old greeting?

Maybe in books... Searchebooks.com shows quite a few hits, mostly Victorian (but that could be the bias of Searchebooks' contents). Mark Twain and Washington Irving both used it, so that's American evidence. and Irving (1783-1859) is the oldest author I recognize.

The Adventures of Captain Bonneville by Washington Irving ...they became "hail fellow well met" with Captain Bonneville's men;
Extract From Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven by Mark Twain ...he comes across, and be hail-fellow-well-met with all the elect

So finally I remember that it might be in the Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs . Look at these gems:
1519 Horman. He made so moche of his servaunt thathe waxed hayle felowe with hym.
1581 Guazzo. The maister ... being as you say hailefellow well met with his servaunt.
They have more from the 1500s and 1600s, and one from 1888.

It was such a standard expression by 1519 that the writer could just refer to it, without spelling it all out!
It might be so old that it actually goes back to the time when it would literally have been the standard greeting. As if it were today's, "And she was all like, 'Hi, howya doin?'"

Best Donna Richoux
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The last time "hail fellow well met" was discussed on AUE was in 1999, in a very short thread which ... might cause my instinct to hypothesise that this is exclusively British? 2. Is my instinct correct in this intuition?

From the OED:
hail-fellow, a. (adv.), n. (The familiar greeting or accost ‘Hail, fellow!’ (now obs. or arch.), used as a descriptive expression, ... Servant are at Hail Fellow. a1687 Cotton Poet. Wks. (1765) 107 This Youth hail Fellow with me made. a1687 1684

They worked for one of the fastest-growing banks in the country,.. that had a long-distance sprinter - a wizard who had gone from grunt to senior executive vice-president in less than five years - New Yorker 1985
1519 Horman. He made so moche of his servaunt that he waxed hayle felowe with hym. 1581 Guazzo. The maister ... was such a standard expression by 1519 that the writer could just refer to it, without spelling it all out!

Perhaps. Or the "well met" could be a later addition.

David
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Do we know if "hail fellow well met" refers to the actions of one, or two? If James and John were speaking lines would it be
(James) Hail fellow. Well met.
or
(James) Hail fellow.
(John) Well met.
The old quotes seem to use "with".
Richard Maurer To reply, remove half
Sunnyvale, California of a homonym of a synonym for also.
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