How Did the Term “OK” Start?
There have been several theories as to the origin of the popular term “O.K.,” used worldwide to indicate approval. The one now accepted as accurate is that O.K. first stood for “oll korrect,” an intentional misspelling of “all correct.”
Journalists in New York and Boston in the 1830s started a fad of humorously abbreviating common expressions, usually misspelling them.
“O.K.” was one of their pet terms. It first appeared in print in the Boston Morning Post in 1839. Though political events of the time helped popularize “O.K.,” it can be traced directly to Boston, and “oll korrect.”
Some people say it came from the Native American Indian tribe known as the Choctaw. The Choctaw word okeh means the same as the American word okay. Experts say early explorers in the American West spoke the Choctaw language in the nineteenth century. The language spread across the country.
Other people say a railroad worker named Obadiah Kelly invented the word long ago. They said he put the first letters of his names — O and K — on each object people gave him to send on the train.
Still others say a political organization invented the word. The organization supported Martin Van Buren for president in eighteen forty. They called their group, the O.K. Club. The letters were taken from the name of the town where Martin Van Buren was born — Old Kinderhook, New York.
Not everyone agrees with this explanation, either. But experts do agree that the word is purely American. And it has spread to almost every country on Earth.
Then there is the expression A-OK. This means everything is fine. A-OK is a space-age expression. It was used in nineteen sixty-one during the flight of astronaut Alan Shepard. He was the first American to be launched into space. His flight ended when his spacecraft landed in the ocean, as planned. Shepard reported: “Everything is A-OK.”
However, some experts say the expression did not begin with the space age. One story says it was first used during the early days of the telephone to tell an operator that a message had been received.