Why we say “OK”

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  • Published on:  Wednesday, September 12, 2018
  • How a cheesy joke from the 1830s became the most widely spoken word in the world.

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    OK is thought to be the most widely recognized word on the planet. We use it to communicate with each other, as well as our technology. But it actually started out as a language fad in the 1830’s of abbreviating words incorrectly.

    Young intellectuals in Boston came up with several of these abbreviations, including “KC” for “knuff ced,” “OW” for “oll wright,” and KY for “know yuse.” But thanks to its appearance in Martin Van Buren’s 1840 presidential re-election campaign as the incumbents new nickname, Old Kinderhook, OK outlived its abbreviated comrades.

    Later, widespread use by early telegraph operators caused OK to go mainstream, and its original purpose as a neutral affirmative is still how we use it today.

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  • Vox  (Sep 12, 2018)

    Another popular false origin of OK comes from the American Civil War (1861-1865) which says that soldiers returning from battle would report "0K" (zero killed). And there's a few from around the world, too. Like the Greek "όλα καλά (óla kalá) which means "all good," the Scottish "och aye," which means "oh yes," and even a French-named seaport in Haiti, Aux Cayes. While these are all pretty interesting and might indicate why "OK" was so easily adapt...

  • Jade Hoffmann  (Apr 13, 2019)

    I had heard the civil War one... Now I just feel stupid but it's ok :)

  • Rikku Takanashi  (Mar 25, 2019)

    That is interesting. It seems the O and K sound, at a basic level, has been used as a natural affirmative for a long, long time. Which, is likely why Ok was so easy to adapt.

  • Teixeira  (Sep 15, 2018)

    so a meme in 1830 became the most used word in the world

  • Beautiful View  (Apr 9, 2019)

    Teixeira lol

  • psp2001_PT  (Sep 23, 2018)


  • Name not found  (Dec 16, 2018)

    I hope “Yeet” lives up to this and becomes one of the greats.

  • Rick Sanchez  (1 day ago)

    Yeetus von Skeet Skeet here to come correct

  • Ned Mononymous  (4 days ago)

    +wumbology This is one small step for man, one giant YEET for mankind

  • vic da fangirl  (Nov 22, 2018)

    I see you Krusty Krab

  • Ktōznayet  (Apr 11, 2019)


  • Carly Vidler  (Dec 10, 2018)

    Ok mr krabs

  • Mohaamd_7  (Nov 20, 2018)

    A mid-19th century corny joke made it to the moon..

  • john leonardo  (Mar 13, 2019)


  • Troubled Sole  (Nov 25, 2018)

    another giant leap for mankind.

  • So If OK were some word came from memelords back 1830s then...Could people possibly in the future will actually say F during funerals or any sad occasions???

  • Youtube E  (6 days ago)

    I’ve never heard anyone say f before I’m quite genuinely shook

  • Yuzan  (Mar 24, 2019)

    They might source your comment when they make a video to learn its origin.

  • Dantoxism  (Sep 12, 2018)

    So it was just a meme that got taken too far

  • Glossy Gloss  (Sep 12, 2018)

    How was it a meme? I don’t see the connection at all.

  • Nic Anastasi  (Sep 12, 2018)

    Jag Delfin Rip

  • James Lintell-Smith  (Nov 22, 2018)

    What about oki doki?

  • Ned Mononymous  (4 days ago)

    +Bad Cornflakes Hate to break it to you man but we don't say it because we grow artichokes. Although artichokes are amazing.

  • Nova  (6 days ago)

    Japanese EGIRLS came up with that

  • caramel coffee  (Mar 16, 2019)

    so whyyyy did my high school English take off marks when i wrote "O.K" instead of "okay"

  • Nicola Massarini  (6 days ago)

    Yea actuallly because of this origin okay is even more wrong than “ok”.

  • Da Boo  (Apr 8, 2019)

    OK is an abbreviation of okay

  • Storm Arrow  (Dec 7, 2018)

    But why do some people spell it ok and others okay?

  • Dhanush l  (Apr 8, 2019)

    I spell it as wokay