How the word OK was invented 175 years ago
How the word OK was invented 175 years ago (ThinkStock)
How the word OK was invented 175 years ago
Lexile: 1370L

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"OK" is one of the most common words in the English language, but linguistically it's a relative newbie. It's just 150 years old, and traces its roots back to 19th century Boston. Rather than anyone purposefully inventing "OK," it's actually editorial joke that inadvertently went viral.

It all began in the office of Charles Gordon Greene at the Boston Morning Post, Good Magazine writes. The year was 1839, and among writerly folk, abbreviations were all the rage (think LOLZ, OMG or NBD today). "This trend," Good continues, "produced many unsuccessful terms such as OWan OK-like term for "oll wright" (all right) that flopped."

OK first appeared as an abbreviation for "Oll Korrect," printed in a satirical article about grammar, the Economist continues. The word's origins were only revealed in the 1960s, however, when etymologist Allen Read did some diggingthrough suggestions that the word might come from Europe, a Civil War nickname for biscuits, or an abbreviation for the telegraph term Open Key. Still others falsely thought that president Martin Van Buren had invented the term in his presidential campaign, which used the slogan "Vote for OK" in reference to both his hometown and his nickname, Old Kinderhook, the Economist writes. But Van Buren only popularized the term, Read found, not invented it.

Although Read showed "how, stage by stage, OK was spread throughout North America and the world to the moon, and then took on its new form AOK, first used by space people and frowned on by purists," the Economists writes, some doubters continue to insist that the word in fact has a much earlier origin. We'll just have to be OK with never knowing for absolute sure.

Critical thinking challenge: Whats so funny about Oll Korrect in an article about grammar?

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  • taylor.johnston93
    11/13/2014 - 12:48 p.m.

    Very interesting and I never knew that the word "OK" started off as a editorial joke that went viral and was created over 175 years ago. Whats cool about this word is that it's has been around since the 20th century and the words that we use today the didn't use back then

  • NJ2001Game
    11/13/2014 - 12:57 p.m.

    Its funny because oll korrect is bad grammar but its in a grammar article. I never knew that OK came from that type of origin.

  • ratiaira
    11/13/2014 - 01:45 p.m.

    that's cool i never knew that i use the word OK all the time and never knew its back story but wow 175 years old that amazing that people still say it today

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    11/13/2014 - 02:13 p.m.

    I just think it's funny that it's hasn't always been a word because people use it so often. I guess it is just one of those things we take for granted, although when I think of taking things for granted, I rarely think of the common words we use everyday.

  • CapeleyZ-1
    11/13/2014 - 04:02 p.m.

    Although OK is a very commonly used phrase it has not always been around. The word has only been around for about 150 years. It started when Charles Gordon Greene wrote in the Boston Morning Post in 1839 when abbreviations were all the rage. This popular thing came up with many things like OW which basically means the same thing as OK but was unsuccessful. OK was first an abbreviation for Oll Korrect but was not turned into what we think of it today as till 1960. Although this all led up to the popularity of OK, still no one is really sure how it became so popular. I think that this is so cool but i find it weird how new OK is.

  • naidag
    11/13/2014 - 07:48 p.m.

    It talks about how the word ' ok ' was invented . Who invented it , and how / what it means . Also , how the word had got out , and people using the word .

  • r2000soccer
    11/14/2014 - 08:38 a.m.

    the funny about Oll Korrect is OK first appeared as an abbreviation for "Oll Korrect," printed in a satirical article about grammar, the Economist continues.

  • jacob.francel46
    11/14/2014 - 01:01 p.m.

    Wow! I was very curious about where the word ''ok'' came from, and whoosh this article pops up. That's cool it came from a newspaper I thought it might of just came out of the blue like a lot of things. Still a debate over who made the word but credit to the newspaper that made it viral.

  • AlexisKrise
    11/14/2014 - 01:45 p.m.

    All editorial people have a few errors now and then, my question is, if it started out as 'oll korrect' then how did it get to 'OK'? Our current definition for it is 'Okay'. We shorten 'Okay' to "OK" as it's abbreviation. How, and why, did this come to be? This article doesn't really tell how 'OK' became 'okay' as we know it today.

  • NoahMurr15
    11/14/2014 - 01:49 p.m.

    That word is used so often that you really never thought of how or when it was created. But now it is cool to now know.

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