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Today, the overwhelming majority of German speakers in Southern Germany and Austria greet each other using grüß Gott. The English Wikipedia article on grüß Gott claims, without a supporting reference, that "the greeting was promoted in the 19th century by the Catholic clergy". This implies that at some time in the 19th century, the use of grüß Gott was not as widespread as it is now. Two questions therefore arise:

  • Is it true that grüß Gott was not as commonly used as a greeting in the 19th century as it is today?
  • What other neutral, catch-all greetings were commonly used in Southern Germany and Austria before grüß Gott became near-universal (regardless of whether this happened in the 19th century or earlier)?
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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Dec 10, 2020 at 16:07
  • I just found a second part of the question, "what other" ... "in Austria", and I remember in Austria everyone greeting with "servus". This would have to be something to check. May 30, 2023 at 20:38
  • Another thing, the epicenter of "grüß Gott" is Schwaben, not general south Germany and Austria. When I came from Freiburg (Baden) to Tübingen (Schwaben) was the first time that I and my parents really encountered "grüß Gott" in everyday vernacular. And in Bavaria "güß dich" is relatively more common, and in Austria "servus" and in Switzerland "grüazi". May 30, 2023 at 20:44

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As I had commented, the way to answer this question is by collecting all theater pieces, records of talks and letters and find therein all forms of greetings and then tabulate them.

It's not that easy to do quickly.

But I have tried then and now again, and I have at least one example now which I think clearly refutes the 19th century theory you have in your Wikipedia lore. This is in a theater piece in Sebastian Sailer "Schriften im schwäbischen Dialekte." dated 1819, so it looks back into at least the end of the 18th century. And we have here the only greeting being "Grüß Gott":

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and it is found online here

As I look around for more, I will bring it here.

I checked

  • Friedrich Schiller. Wallenstein. Wallensteins Lager. No greeting found.
  • Friedrich Schiller. Wilhelm Tell. ... I have no single page text ...

... so not having a text of Wilhelm Tell that I could search, I figured I do a search in Project Gutenberg library as a whole.

"grüß" site:projekt-gutenberg.org

which brings a lot, knowing the authors would certainly help. But then, if I put "Friedrich Schiller" into the search, I get "Gott grüß' dich, Gaudieb!" in "Der Neffe als Onkel".

In the wide search I also get Arnim & Brentano, des Knaben Wunderhorn, "Gott grüß' euch Alter, schmeckt das Pfeifchen? Weißt her!" which reminds me that the Romantic movement to collect folkish material, including the Grimm Brothers, will be something to check for.

This is also source material to prove the origin of the short form "Grüß Gott", wich is "Es grüße euch Gott!" (in the old texts you will find the polite plural "euch" as in English "you" ("yee"?) instead of "dich" ("thee"). But that wasn't so much the question. Only it is clear that the 18th century you have this form and the short "Grüß Gott" already, and in theater pieces there is always a tendency to put a higher form of the vernacular, and not the common more vulgar form.

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    @vectory if you think "there have to be" why don't you bring them? Dec 12, 2020 at 18:35
  • It is true that some plays may use vernacular greetings, but this almost certainly isn't true of letters. At least, it's not true today in German, nor in any other language I speak—nobody greets me personally as "Lieber So-and-so" or "Sehr geehrter Herr So-and-so" in speech! So overall I'd have to agree with @vectory that this methodology is flawed (unless you mean to exclude greetings that form the salutation of the letter).
    – Psychonaut
    May 13, 2023 at 15:44

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