Monday, 23 February 2009

Etymology of "O.K."

Did you know that every time you utter the word "okay", you are forwarding the legacy of the educated teens of the 19th century? "O.K.", the abbreviation of "oll correct*" (popular misspelling for "all correct") was first published (and consequently popularized) in the Boston Morning Post on March 23rd 1839 as part of a joke.

The educated youth of the 1830s enjoyed misspelling and abbreviating words which they then used as slang. However, of all the abbreviations that were popular in the 19th century, only one has crossed into mainstream and adequate english.  Used as a political weapon, "O.K." was both the name of a gang of thugs (the "O.K" Club** were to influence voters into favoring and reelecting president Martin Van Bureen) and a jab at the president's mentor, Andrew Jackson, who had (according to the rival party) invented the abbreviation to camouflage his own grammatical mistake.

Other debunked theories on the origins of "okay"  include the name of a popular army biscuit (Orrin Kendall), the name of a haitian rum port (Aux Cayes) and the signature of the Choctaw Chief, Old Keokuk.

Let us be thankful for "okay"; the word that has saved us from many an explanation. Nonetheless, let us pray that the phrase "2 kewl 4 skewl" never becomes acceptable english.


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