Today I found out what “OK” stands for, namely “oll korrect”. So how does that make any sense at all? I’m glad you asked, because otherwise this article would have been way to short to publish.
The time was 1839. In Boston and New York, slang abbreviations were all the rage with the abbreviations often representing deliberately misspelled slang phrases like “KY” for “know yuse”; “OW” for “oll wright” (the predecessor of “oll korrect”); “KG” for “know go”; “NS” for “nuff said”; and many many others.
OK is one of the few of these abbreviations to survive. It managed to do so largely because of an 1840 New York campaign slogan by boosters of Martin Van Buren for re-election. Van Buren’s nickname was “Old Kinderhook”; so this group made their name the “O.K. Club”, thus having the double meaning of “oll korrect” and “Old Kinderhook”. As you might expect, this also gave rise to Van Buren’s opponents quipping that Van Buren’s supporters were all illiterate.
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- The phrase “Okey-doke” first showed up in 1932 and originally came about as the English spelled OK “okie”. This was then brought back to America where Americans pronounced this version with a long e, giving rise to the rhyme.
- Greek immigrants to America who ended up returning to Greece were called by the Greece “okay-boys”, due to the fact that they had picked up certain American speech mannerisms such as “OK”.
- The verb form of OK originally showed up in 1919 being spelled out as “okeh”, being confused with the Choctaw word “okeh”, which means “it is so”. In 1929 however, this spelling was replaced by okay, which has pretty much endured to this day.
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