On the origins and oll korrectness of OK

history of ok
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What’s it with acronyms and abbreviations and initials that have made them forever part of the ‘in’ jargon of the human world? Of course, the convenience of them all. Imagine saving milliseconds of your precious time by just having to type LOL instead of that old fashioned sounding laughing out loud which you don’t tend however to do even when it indeed is what you are professing at that moment in time. Or take for instance the quirky OMG that, despite all manifestations delivers still a certain ‘vibe’ that the original Oh My God/ Oh My Gosh cannot quite conjure up even in all its divine invocation. Which brings into consideration also the cool quotient associated with these essentially shortened versions of mostly exclamations. There lies indeed an undeniable fun appeal in hurling acronyms at people, perhaps much like what it feels to be hurling abuses in all good natured banter (or more so otherwise perhaps, as we would all know better) which is why we simply cannot ditch those expressions of fuss free brevity in favour of their grammatically proper elucidations, no matter how fervent grammar Nazis one might tend to be. But it isn’t just the context of their usage nor the premises of what allows them such commonplace popularity in everyday conversation that makes these many acronyms stand out even in their rather precise existence. It also is the intriguing backstory of how they come to be and manifest as what they are in the present day and times that makes these utterances of utter convenience also reside in such settings fancy enough for any literary enthusiast to want to delve into.

One such particular shortening of entire expressions and whole vocabulary, that which perhaps would qualify as being among the most uttered of such brevities in the world in its essential, exemplary and mostly eloquent nod of things being all right and all correct and such similar stuff is the humble enough, unassuming utterance of what we deem as OK. Indeed an acronym and therefore more accurate in its all caps mention in writing, OK however is also often and acceptably written in small letters as well, without inciting any vociferous debate or argument as is the case with so many other trivial enough things in the all assuming, self important times of today. But in any case though, ok isn’t an abbreviation that spells out as okay. Both of them are alternate spellings of the same word and what OK tends to stand for in all universality, albeit with aberrations, is instead the unrelated sounding prospect of ‘all correct’. Definitely English in origin but not of as much certainty as regards its etymology is this hugely common okaying of the OK that indeed is harbouring of more substance than what we deem it probable of hoarding in its barely there length of a prominently there word.

Several theories seek to lay claim to this vastly imposing word of assertive indeed power, zeroing in on the prospects of just how very complicatedly simple this entire summing of a mere couple of letters have led the world into. But of utmost popularity is the one that attributes this particular acronym its perplexing still claim to standing for the phrase ‘all correct’. While the general intention of okay indeed is to deliver the notion of what is under purview as being all correct and fine and stuff, it isn’t the exclusive only assertion of how these togetherness of the two letters came to be. And even when it is, it would still be unclear as to how exactly this particular placing began out to entail what it ended up doing. It only is a deep indeed look into history that would allow us specific details of just how OK emerged to be the phenomenon that it is today not just as the most frequently used word on the planet but also in being the most successful export of the English language to other tongues where it exists as prominently as a loanword.

OK might still be holding ground in its popularity but it is not one among those very recent, casual and cool modes of speech that owes their origin, spread and more than immense popularity to the advent of the digital age, more particularly the infamously time starved world of social media and the netizens pledging their unwavering allegiance to it. OK in fact ventured forth to assert its okayness as early as in the 19th century in the forever iconic land of America. On a particular morning in the year of 1839, OK was conceived, perhaps unwittingly, out of a certain column that graced the second page of the Boston Morning Post. In a satirical article that was published on 23rd March of the said year, as a jab at a fellow newspaper rival, OK emerged still out of a certain trend that was all the rage in those days of the times. As folks intrigued by writing took it upon themselves to deliberately come up with misspellings to coin acronyms, fazed indeed by the underlying appeal that had made itself evident by then to the literati, OK emerged to be the standout success that would continue to go about in resounding reverberations alluding to that era in history that produced though miserable failures as well. With o.k. standing next to the grammatical indeed fallacy but the popularly fun also interpretation of all correct as Oll Korrect in the article penned by the newspaper’s founder and then editor in response to a certain publication in the Providence Journal, the stage was set for an expression of validation that managed to earn itself the validation of the world, via the globally assertive American conscience.

Call it one of those witty tirades that Green regularly launched from his armour of self conceived vocabulary or consider it instead as an attempt to cater to the abbreviated fad that had begun doing the rounds already but OK went on to do another very immediate follow up along the pages of the same paper. Just three days later in the same year of 1839, OK reappeared in another article, making way thus for its definite inroads into also the colloquial American conversation. As this newfound take on all correct showed up also in the Boston Evening Transcript, New York Evening Tattler and the Philadelphia Gazette that very year, it marked the emergence and corresponding spread of a word that would come to define myriad many happenings in and of history through the years to come.

This positioning of OK within the historically significant expanse of events occurred in America the very next year. This time though it was a political campaign that lend mileage to this newborn component in the American English lexicon with its usage that dominated the presidential election of 1940. It worked indeed for OK to remain in business unlike many of its counterparts and even predecessors, the abbreviated OW standing for oll wright or all right catering to the latter being a veritable case in point, as indeed is the nature of power intertwined with the aspirations of the political. More specifically, it would be to the credit of an American President, the eight one to be precise, that OK owes its uncontended rise in popularity to. Bidding unsuccessfully for a second straight term in office was Martin Van Buren who endowed instead the glory of success upon the nascent still emergence of the OK acronym. Nicknamed Old Kinderhook after his birthplace was this eminent American who shared his initials with the newly coined term of validation, leading therefore to the Vote for OK slogan resounding across the lengths and breadths of the country as a memorable enough campaign that yielded though a result outside of its intention. So commonly encountered was this call for vote for the Americans that OK would go on to be attributed to Old Kinderhook not in its popularity but in its very origin itself. That itself should not be too repulsive a case for the original contender of who made up OK first since it indeed had been the prevalence of the Old Kinderhook phrase that lent also the word its associated interpretation in sign.

But despite the American link being very assertive in the unheralded abbreviation of OK embarking to mark its own in the world, there also prevails a couple some alternative speculations pointing to its plausibility in development. Of leanings as diverse as Choctaw and Wolof and Occitan, or perhaps even German and Greek and French and Finnish and Latin not to mention recurring references in English and even Old English, OK is not as okay an assertion in the nomenclature of it. The timeline of the attribution by linguists and the like though has always followed the Boston Morning Post initiation of 1839, acknowledging therefore even in somewhat skewed a manifestation of it, as OK being yet another icon adhering to the great American identity.

The years that lined up since its origin and almost simultaneous claim to fame saw developments of what had by then been established as a word in its own right even though the etymology of it did not evoke much contemplation for more than a century after its emergence. But the prominence of it in speech was more than evident. By the year of 1864, OK had earned itself enough backing to be included in the Slang Dictionary of Vulgar Words while continuing to find expression in popular culture as well. Even though in its almost immediate mass acceptance, OK still has had to come a long way from being a 1800s reference to being the humble still yet unavoidable form of expression that we are pressed into using in a range of different dimensions- as different figures of speech, as conveyer of different degrees of acceptability, as different extents of assent and acknowledgement and even as a speculative question to end all speculations. And within such myriad modes of its functioning lies the always okay nature of OK that has made it the cool, popular dude that it is today.


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