The Start of the Word “OK”

Who hasn’t used the word ‘OK’ more than once a day? It is one of those common expressions used over the generations, including your ancestors. It can also be spelled ‘Okay’ but pronounced the same.

It began when a popular activity in the 1830s that of telling jokes among young people in America, but using an acronym so the person hearing the joke would have to guess what was truly meant. An article about this activity was in the ‘Boston Morning Post’ on March 23, 1839. Here it stated ‘O.K. was ‘All correct’. At the end of 1839 the word OK was used in several newspapers.

A common phrase used back then was “all correct’ meaning everything was fine. To shorten it even in a joke, the letters ‘OK’ were used.

The 8th U. S. President Martin Van Buren, was running for re-election in 1840. It was decided to use the OK phrase in his campaign. He was nicknamed ‘Old Kinderhook’ (after his birthplace in New York State). His campaign slogan, “O.K.” became their rallying cry, with even ‘OK Clubs’ formed. But he lost to William Henry Harrison. It was used by other politicial groups in 1844.

With the new telegraph use in 1844, the OK was used at the end of a telegraph message confirmed that a message had been received — dash-dash-dash and dash-dot-dash

It became the standard method to exclaim neutral affirmative or just acknowledged and acceptance.

Words beginning with a ‘K’ became popular in 1900, especially with new products.

A self-help book in 1967 by Thomas Harris, “I’m OK, You’re OK”

Used in songs, poems, TV, movies and even expressed with your fingers.

On July 20, 1969, with the American landing on the moon, they said; “OK engine stopped.”

See if you can catch your elf or someone else and how many times they say “O.K.”

Photos: Fingers signaling ‘OK’; 1840 Van Buren re-election campaign; 1840 Van Buren campaign; and 1844 used in other political movements.

Related Blogs:

Quaint Sayings

Antiquated American Sayings

Old Sayings

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