RH grew up in small villages around the city of Hamburg and spent parts of his young adulthood living in or commuting to the city for work. Now, he lives in the United States, but some of his colleagues are also either originally from Hamburg or still live there and communicate via video calls.
RH: 'Moin Moin' sagt man auch also so'n Grüßspruch. SH: Weißt du wo 'Moin Moin' herkommt? RH: Nein. Ich weiß das nicht wo das herkommt. SH: Ok. RH: Das ist, also, ich hatte früher gedacht das das einfach 'ne Hamburger, also eine Plattdeutsche version von 'Morgen,' so von 'Guten Morgen' wäre, aber das ist es glaub ich nicht. Aber das müsste mann bestimmt auch rausfinden können. SH: Ja. Also 'Moin,' oder 'Moin Moin' ist, sehr Hamburg-isch? RH: Ja ist es. Das sagen meine Kollegen morgens auch viel. Ich weiß nicht was die Amerikaner davon halten, aber.
RH: You also say 'Moin Moin' as a greeting phrase. SH: Do you know where 'Moin Moin' comes from? RH: No. I don't know where it comes from. SH: Ok. RH: That is, so, I used to think that it was just a Hamburg, so a Plattdeutsch version of 'Morning' as in 'Good Morning,' but I don't think it is. But you should to be able to figure that out. SH: Yeah. So 'Moin' or 'Moin Moin' is, very Hamburg-y? RH: Yes it is. My colleagues say it often in the mornings. I don't know what the Americans make of it, though.
RH is from the area surrounding Hamburg, where the usage of ‘Moin’ as a greeting is very common. He mentions the theory that ‘Moin’ originates from a Plattdeutsch word for ‘morning,’ but says he does not believe that theory anymore. One reason for doubting that theory is that the usage of ‘Moin’ is not restricted to the morning, but can be used any time of day, and even as a goodbye.
RH does not speak Plattdeutsch, which is why he is not sure if ‘Moin’ could track back to the dialect. Plattdeutsch is a dialect of German that was the prevailing language in northern Germany until the formation of the German nation-state and the following standardization of the German language and education system that favored southern German ‘High German’ instead. Plattdeutsch has an association with rural and poorer people and carries a class connotation.
‘Moin’ is the first example of northern German slang that I would think of if asked. It’s overwhelmingly common and has spread far beyond just northern Germany. I have frequently heard it used when in Hamburg, and unlike many other examples of folk speech that have distant historical roots, it seems to be fairly popular with the youth. This is a contrast to ‘Hummel Hummel,’ ‘Mors Mors,’ another northern German greeting that is now generally seen as an old fashioned greeting. In contrast, ‘Moin,’ or ‘Moin Moin’ is a very casual way to greet someone, and is a multi-purpose greeting that does not need to be tailored to specific occasions. For more information on ‘Hummel Hummel,’ ‘Mors Mors’ and the Plattdeutsch dialect, see “Hamburg Greeting Exchange ‘Hummel Hummel’ ‘Mors Mors'” by Stella Horns on the USC Digital Folklore Archives.