Still OK by me

When I finish reading a proof page that is error-free—it does happen—I scribble “OK” in the margin, reinforcing the use of what may be the world’s most popular word.

Today is the anniversary of the introduction of OK to the English language, as demonstrated decades ago by Allen Walker Read and chronicled last year by Allan Metcalf in his splendid OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word (reviewed here).

Pay no attention to the other etymologies you’ll find pushing themselves forward. It was the Boston Morning Post that on March 23, 1839, used OK (a joking abbreviation for the equally joking oll korrect, “all correct”) and gave the word to the language, and it was the peculiar set of circumstances Mr. Metcalf describes that permitted it to flourish.

When we consider how much English has sluttishly appropriated from other languages, it is gratifying to see that it has also given something back. Happy birthday, OK.



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