Philip Lenssen, a German contributor to the group blog Google Blogoscoped, has used Google to collect a list of 200 German towns and what words are used as a carnival salute (Alaaf or Helau) and for carnival (Fasching or Karneval – the word Fastnacht, Fasnet etc. isn’t even considered).
bq. I can’t say this strikes me as very authoritative. Incidentally, I heard a Fasching event about ten days ago where the cry was ‘Fürth Alaaf – Franken Helau’.
The Googleshare algorithm here is simple enough. Let’s take Hamburg as example. If the page-count for the Google result for Hamburg Helau is higher than for Hamburg Alaaf, it will assume “Helau” is indeed the way to salute during carnival in Hamburg. As most automated data mining with Google, this algorithm isn’t failsafe; in particular, it disregards the fact some of the cities do not have carnival in he first place.
Duden says Alaaf is from Cologne and from ‘alles ab’ meaning ‘alles (andere) weg’ (Kluge’s etymological dictionary agrees, saying it is a call for more space), and Helau means Hurrah.
(Via Handakte WebLAWg)