what's the origin of the phrase "ok"?

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  • 1 decade ago
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    I always understood it to stand for 'Orl Korrekt' ... a jokey misspelling of 'All Correct'. (That is what my father, a writer and English scholar, used to say.)

    It certainly seems to be an 'Americanism'. I seem to remember my mother frowning on the use of it in the '50s. She abhorred anything that 'degraded' the English language and, though she had American cousins and several American friends, she looked upon American as rather 'colloquial'. That was quite a common attitude, I'm afraid, amongst English people born in the early 20th Century.

    Bill Bryson says: "Of all the new words to issue from the New World, the quintessential Americanism without any doubt was O.K. Arguably America's single greatest gift to international discourse, O.K. is the most grammatically versatile of words, able to serve as an adjective ("Lunch was O.K."), verb ("Can you O.K. this for me?"), noun ("I need your O.K. on this"), interjection ("O.K., I hear you"), and adverb ("We did O.K."). It can carry shades of meaning that range from casual assent ("Shall we go?" "O.K."), to great enthusiasm ("O.K.!"), to lukewarm endorsement ("The party was O.K."), to a more or less meaningless filler of space ("O.K., may I have your attention please?").

    It is a curious fact that the most successful and widespread of all English words, naturalized as an affirmation into almost every language in the world, from Serbo-Croatian to Tagalog, is one that has no correct agreed spelling (it can be O.K., OK, or okay) and one whose origins are so obscure that it has been a matter of heated dispute almost since it first appeared. The many theories break down into three main camps:

    1. It comes from someone's or something's initials-a Sac Indian chief called Old Keokuk, or a shipping agent named Obadiah Kelly, or from President Martin Van Buren's nickname, Old Kinderhook, or from Orrins-Kendall crackers, which were popular in the nineteenth century. In each of these theories the initials were stamped or scribbled on documents or crates and gradually came to be synonymous with quality or reliability.

    2. It is adapted from some foreign or English dialect word or place name, such as the Finnish oikea, the Haitian Aux Cayes (the source of a particularly prized brand of rum), or the Choctaw okeh. President Woodrow Wilson apparently so liked the Choctaw theory that he insisted on spelling the word okeh.

    3. It is a contraction of the expression "011 korrect," often said to be the spelling used by the semiliterate seventh President, Andrew Jackson.

    This third theory, seemingly the most implausible, is in fact very possibly the correct one-though without involving Andrew Jackson and with a bit of theory one thrown in for good measure. According to Allen Walker Read of Columbia University, who spent years tracking down the derivation of O.K., a fashion developed among young wits of Boston and New York in 1838 of writing abbreviations based on intentional illiteracies. They thought it highly comical to write O.W. for "011 wright," O.K. for "011 korrect," K.Y. for "know yuse," and so on. O.K. first appeared in print on March 23, 1839, in the Boston Morning Post. Had that been it, the expression would no doubt have died an early death, but coincidentally in 1840 Martin Van Buren, known as Old Kinderhook from his hometown in upstate New York, was running for reelection as president, and an organization founded to help his campaign was given the name the Democratic O.K. Club. O.K. became a rallying cry throughout the campaign and with great haste established itself as a word throughout the country. This may have been small comfort to Van Buren, who lost the election to William Henry Harrison, who had the no-less-snappy slogan 'Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.' "

    http://www.angelfire.com/my/happywombat/Bryson_Old...

  • 1 decade ago

    The origin was the subject of scholarly debate for many years until Allen Walker Read showed that OK is based on a joke of sorts. OK is first recorded in 1839 but was probably in circulation before that date. During the 1830s there was a humoristic fashion in Boston newspapers to reduce a phrase to initials and supply an explanation in parentheses. Sometimes the abbreviations were misspelled to add to the humor. OK was used in March 1839 as an abbreviation for all correct, the joke being that neither the O nor the K was correct. Originally spelled with periods, this term outlived most similar abbreviations owing to its use in President Martin Van Buren's 1840 campaign for reelection. Because he was born in Kinderhook, New York, Van Buren was nicknamed Old Kinderhook, and the abbreviation proved eminently suitable for political slogans. This has led to many "folk" etymologies saying that O.K. derives from the 1840 election.

    try this site for a fuller discussion of OK:

    http://tafkac.org/language/etymology/ok_etymology_...

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    According to dictionary.com--

    Word History: OK is a quintessentially American term that has spread from English to many other languages. Its origin was the subject of scholarly debate for many years until Allen Walker Read showed that OK is based on a joke of sorts. OK is first recorded in 1839 but was probably in circulation before that date. During the 1830s there was a humoristic fashion in Boston newspapers to reduce a phrase to initials and supply an explanation in parentheses. Sometimes the abbreviations were misspelled to add to the humor. OK was used in March 1839 as an abbreviation for all correct, the joke being that neither the O nor the K was correct. Originally spelled with periods, this term outlived most similar abbreviations owing to its use in President Martin Van Buren's 1840 campaign for reelection. Because he was born in Kinderhook, New York, Van Buren was nicknamed Old Kinderhook, and the abbreviation proved eminently suitable for political slogans. That same year, an editorial referring to the receipt of a pin with the slogan O.K. had this comment: “frightful letters... significant of the birth-place of Martin Van Buren, old Kinderhook, as also the rallying word of the Democracy of the late election, ‘all correct’.... Those who wear them should bear in mind that it will require their most strenuous exertions... to make all things O.K.”

  • 1 decade ago

    "During the 1830s there was a humoristic fashion in Boston newspapers to reduce a phrase to initials and supply an explanation in parentheses. Sometimes the abbreviations were misspelled to add to the humor. OK was used in March 1839 as an abbreviation for all correct, the joke being that neither the O nor the K was correct."

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  • 1 decade ago

    There have been numerous attempts to explain the emergence of this curious colloquial expression, which seems to have swept into popular use in the US during the mid-19th century. Most of them are undoubtedly pure speculation. It does not seem at all likely, from the linguistic and historical evidence, that it derives from the Scots expression 'och aye', the Greek ola kala ('it is good'), the Choctaw Indian oke or okeh ('it is so'), the French aux Cayes ('from Cayes', a port in Haiti with a reputation for good rum) or au quai ('to the quay', as supposedly used by French-speaking dockers), or the initials of a railway freight agent called Obediah Kelly who is said to have written them on lading documents he had checked.

    The oldest written references to 'OK' result from its adoption as a slogan by the Democratic party during the American Presidential election of 1840. Their candidate, President Martin Van Buren, was nicknamed 'Old Kinderhook' (after his birthplace in New York State), and his supporters formed the 'OK Club'.

    This undoubtedly helped to popularize the term (though it did not get President Van Buren re-elected!). During the late 1830s there had been a brief but widespread craze in the US for humorous misspellings, and the form orl korrekt which was among them could explain the initials 'OK'. Such a theory has been supported by more than one distinguished American scholar, and is given in many dictionaries, including Oxford dictionaries.

    The only other theory with at least a degree of plausibility is that the term originated among Black slaves of West African origin, and represents a word meaning 'all right, yes indeed' in various West African languages. Unfortunately, historical evidence enabling the origin of this expression to be finally and firmly established may be hard to unearth.

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    Jhn 10:23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. Jhn 10:24 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jhn 10:25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. Jhn 10:26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. Jhn 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: - i am sure this answers you question Mat 25:31 ¶ When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: Mat 25:32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats: Mat 25:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. . . . . Mat 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. <><

  • 1 decade ago

    OK = 0K= Zero Kills

    This was formed during world war one in the trenches. Communications where not that great, so when the commander wanted a head count, the officers would go through and have head counts conducted and report back OK (zero kills)

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I heard something about some french sailors who would use the phrase ( as in Aux Cayes, a port in the Caribbean with especially good rum)

  • 1 decade ago

    The letters, not to keep you guessing, stand for "oll korrect." They're the result of a fad for comical abbreviations that flourished in the late 1830s and 1840s.

    (: haha i never ever even thought of questioning what ok meant!

  • 1 decade ago

    I have heared that during the secession war, military wrote in a blackboard the number of dead everyday, so if there wasn't any dead they wrote 0 killed or 0 K, and then became the way to say that there were 0 killed, so everything was right (OK)

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    OK was an abbreviation used in world war 1 meaning 0 killed

    Source(s): 5ht grade teacher
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