While watching the movie, “Silver Linings Playlist,” I
noticed that the character that Bradley Cooper plays,
enjoys analyzing where words come from. I also like to
look up words, find out variations of definitions and
usages of words. The idea of investigating the ‘roots of
languages’ is another way I feel I am ‘playing detective.’
When the slightly crazy character, that Bradley Cooper
plays, asks about the word, “okay.” He finds out from
Jennifer Lawrence’s wacky character that “o.k” comes from
the period in history when President Martin Van Buren
Van Buren’s presidency lasted from 1837-1841. He was a
member of the “Old Kinderhook Club.” President Van Buren
and people who originated from Kinderhook, New York, may
have considered and weighed people’s ‘value’ as they met.
Thus, if newcomers were ‘good enough’ to join their “O. K.
Club,” they were “O.K.”
It was also easier to say, “Vote for OK,” while referring
to Martin Van Buren.
I thought this was rather interesting, finding out from
a movie, how a word came about. But, when I went to look
this particular word up, I found a whole different story!
It is a much more complicated and rather bizarre,
convoluted ‘story’ that several sources used. So, here
goes another way to find the roots and history of the
simple expressions, “Okay” or “o.k.”
In the late 1830’s, Boston newspapers’ articles were full
of abbreviations. Some made ‘sense’ and others needed a big
leap of understanding or a stretch of your imagination!
Apparently there was a ‘fashion,’ or ‘fad,’ that included
this use of ‘shortcuts.’ The craze went so far as to
produce abbreviations of misspelled words. The way that
the words became misspelled, seems to be rooted in another
language entirely. These ‘old fashioned’ expressions from
everyday usage evolved into different combinations of
letters with a kind of acronym style.
Let’s see how this goes…
Such ‘popular’ at the time expressions were:
“No go” = N.B.
“All right” = A.R.
“Know go” = K.G.
“Oll wright” = O.W.
and finally, the one you all wished to know why we got this
“Oll correct” = O.K.
Several of these abbreviations with seemingly nonsensical
misspellings became popular while speaking, not just in
the paper! Can you imagine saying the following?
“That lesson was a K.G.” (Know go.)
“Our plans for going to the movies are a N.G.” (No go.)
The most widespread of this fun speaking trend, was the
use of “okay” or “O.K.”
The Boston Morning Post newspaper got the credit for the
‘first’ use of the word, “O.K.” in 1839.
The use of ‘shortcuts’ reminded me of how I learned to
text faster on my cell phone. By using abbreviations, and
some of the common ways people encapsulate words, I felt
like I was learning a foreign language!
Let’s have some fun with wordplays using the word, “O.K”
as a verb. In this use of the word, the definition is
considered to mean, “approve” or “authorize.”
1. The architect ‘O.K.’d’ the draft for the job.
2. The supervisor ‘okayed’ the idea of a potluck.
In the present verb tense,
3. “Will you okay the document?”
There are two directions, for the same word, that
you can go with okay.
Here is a negative way to interpret the word, “okay.”
Which uses the definition of “mediocrity,” as an
When you have eaten something that you like only
a little or really don’t want seconds…
1. The soup was okay.
If you feel the server was only “adequate” you
2. “She did an okay job.”
Now, here is a positive ‘spin’ on the word! in our
American culture, we use the word ‘okay’ to mean,
‘Way to get things done!’
You are using an enthusiastic tone in your voice, you
may even raise it up a notch, by exclaiming after a
great play in sports:
When I am asked if I would like to go to a concert,
the ticket is being paid by my friend or date:
As an adverb, okay is also used well and has different
ways to interpret it.
While shopping in a crowded store and someone bumps
1. “I am okay,” you may respond.
When your friend arrives late to lunch and is profusely
2. “It is o.k., don’t worry about it.”
In an accident, while the paramedics are trying to get
3. “Are you okay?”
By nodding your head, you are validating that you are
okay. By shaking your head, you are showing without
words, that you aren’t doing very well.
Back in 1967, Thomas A. Harris, MD. wrote a self-help book
that was called, “I’m OK, You’re Ok.” This was around for
awhile, sharing communication skills, along with the way
you can observe verbal and non-verbal communication. At
the time it was published, Harris found the idea behind
T.A., Transactional Analysis to be fascinating. The book
has gone through several republishing and remained on
the New York Times Bestseller List for two years, 1972-
1974. I could not resist including this in this essay,
since it incorporates one of the most popular uses of
the word, “OK.”
In current relationships, our newest way of finding out
if we are ‘on the same page’ or getting along is to
ask these meaningful words,
“Are we o.k.?”
Who would have thought 2 letters abbreviated could be
interpreted in so many diverse ways?
I may now wonder whether or not this essay on the usage
of the word ‘okay’ was o.k.
Your response could indicate a rather blasé reaction or
it could be a very excited one!