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Monday, 21 April 2014

O is for Okay

If you look up the derivation of the word okay (or O.K.), you'll find a number of examples from whence it did NOT arise:

It is NOT from:
the Haitian port "Aux Cayes," Louisiana French au quai, a Puerto Rican rum labeled "Aux Quais," German alles korrekt or Ober-Kommando, Chocktaw okeh, Scots och aye, Wolof waw kay, Greek olla kalla, Latin omnes korrecta, bakers stamping their initials on biscuits, shipbuilders marking wood for "outer keel," or Civil War soldiers carrying signs for "zero killed."

It was based on an 1839 joke:

The "Chairman of the Committee on Charity Lecture Bells," is one of the deputation, and perhaps if he should return to Boston, via Providence, he of the Journal, and his train-band, would have his "contribution box," et ceteras, o.k.—all correct—and cause the corks to fly, like sparks, upward.

It wasn't as strange as it might seem for the author to coin OK as an abbreviation for "all correct." There was a fashion then for playful abbreviations like i.s.b.d (it shall be done), r.t.b.s (remains to be seen), and s.p. (small potatoes). They were the early ancestors of OMG, LOL, and tl;dr. A twist on the trend was to base the abbreviations on alternate spellings or misspellings, so "no go" was k.g. (know go) and "all right" was o.w. (oll write). So it wasn't so surprising for someone come up with o.k. for oll korrect. What is surprising is that it ended up sticking around for so long while the other abbreviations faded away.

OK got lucky by hitting the contentious presidential election jackpot. During the 1840 election the "oll korrect" OK merged with Martin van Buren's nickname, Old Kinderhook, when some van Buren supporters formed the O.K. Club. After the club got into a few tussles with Harrison supporters, OK got mixed up with slandering and sloganeering. It meant out of kash, out of karacter, orful katastrophe, orfully confused, all kwarrelling or any other apt phrase a pundit could come up with. It also got mixed up with the popular pastime of making fun of van Buren's predecessor, Andrew Jackson, for his poor spelling. One paper published a half-serious claim that OK originated with Jackson using it as a mark for "all correct" (ole kurrek) on papers he had inspected.

So, I hope you're OK participating in yet another week of our game. Once the Linky goes live, you will be OK to post your musings with us, and our more than OK team will visit you. OK, so you know how this works.



21 comments:

  1. OK! What a well researched and scholarly intro!
    Thank you for hosting, Roger:)

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  2. O for OBLIGATION
    http://www.ananyatales.com/2014/04/obligations.html

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  3. Martin van Buren was Dutch, no wonder his spelling was not "korrekt"!
    Nice story Roger!
    Wil, ABCW Team

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  4. Great post Roger. I didn't know about the history of okay. I usually look up words like that because I'm curious but for some reason that one slipped by me.

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  5. That was very interesting, Roger! Thanks for all that info. It stuck so well I never even questioned it's origin.

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  6. OUTSTANDING opening to an awesome blog! Great post, Roger and thank you and your overworked team!

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  7. Once again, yor da man when it comes to interesting and insightful posts.

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  8. Original post about the abbreviation OK - never even thought about it before. lol

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  9. Fascinating info here Roger, especially with the twist on spellings! I hope the inventors of LOL will be OK with the idea that they weren't quite the first to come up with playful abbreviations. Thank you to you and the other team members for the wonderful work on this meme.

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  10. It's been a while but I'm back and already found out something new. OK.

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  11. I guess we can't blame our current generation for the deterioration of the English language through the use of texting lingo. The term "OK" and other popular terms appear to be nearly 200 years old. LOL!

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  12. I did some researches of OK too and according to the Germans, French, and Italians it stems from the van Buren's nickname, "Old Kinderhook" ! Since WWII it is used in the whole world and became an international expression, and even those who don't speak one word of English, say OK instead of yes, ja, oui or si !

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  13. Ordinary ok, of odd old origins ;-)

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  14. O- for Only and Only bog that is so much fun and cool. ABC Wednesday!

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  15. Old wares outdoors.
    Thanks for hosting!

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  16. okily dokily! thanks for hosting!

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  17. More then OK in participating. There are always so many great contributions to this meme every week.

    Mersad
    Mersad Donko Photography

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  18. Outstandingly interesting article Roger.....I use the idiom Ok frequently, now I know from whence it derives...
    That's just ok with me!
    Happy weekend
    , lovely sunshine here, hope it's the same with you,
    Best wishes Di.x

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  19. Good one, Roger!
    This is not just OK, but Ooh-La-La! :)
    Here's my O- O for Odisha, a beautiful state of India...
    http://anitaexplorer.blogspot.in/2014/04/some-marvels-of-odisha.html

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