Guest post by Mignon Fogarty
“OK” one of the most recognized English words in the world, which is surprising given its humble start: it comes from a joke made in 1839 by an influential journalist at the Boston Morning Post named Charles Gordon Greene while he was sparring with a rival paper, the Providence Daily Journal.
In what today is a nearly incomprehensible announcement about the travels of a mostly fake group called the “Anti-Bell Ringing Society” (actually formed to support people who wanted to ring dinner bells), Greene used the abbreviation “o.k.” to mean “all correct.”
How did he get “o.k.” from “all correct”? Around 1839, people thought it was hilarious to make abbreviations from incorrect spellings, so “o.k.” stands for “oll korrect.” They also used “o.w.” for “all right.” It was a small and short-lived trend, and “OK” seems to be the only survivor.
Although many book editors favor the gentrified “okay” spelling, I favor “OK” because it is more true to the word’s origin, and I’m glad to say that ”OK” is the Associated Press’ recommended spelling too.
The story of “OK” has been floating around for years, but the minute details are laid out in Allan Metcalf’s book OK: The improbable story of America’s greatest word.
Mignon Fogarty is better known as Grammar Girl. Muck Rack is delighted to learn of journalists’ contribution to Twitter-sized lingo and recommends you follow @GrammarGirl and order her New York Times bestseller Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. OK?