Sunday, September 2, 2007

OK - Here's a piece of trivia for you

Yesterday I was proofreading the Birds and Bees blog, before I posted it. I couldn't decide if the little word, meaning "all right" should be spelled OK, O.K. or okay. I've seen it all three ways. So I went to to see what the preferred spelling was. I found it was correctly spelled either "OK" or "okay." But while reading the definitions, I found this side comment from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. I thought it was kind of interesting:

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."

While reading this I couldn't help thinking of how fond Takashi was of "OK." We always got a chuckle out of his non-committal response to "How are ya' doing?" (and other similar questions) which was, usually, "Pretty OK."

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