>From: email@example.com (Terry Chan)
Subject: Sheesh! Okay Already!
Organization: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley
References: <firstname.lastname@example.org> <1991Jul11.email@example.com> <16682@exodus.Eng.Sun.COM> <1991Jul12.firstname.lastname@example.org>
X-Local-Date: Mon, 15 Jul 91 16:48:13 PDT
Reply-To: email@example.com (Terry Chan)
Date: Mon, 15 Jul 91 23:48:12 GMT
Well folks, Cecil does a fairly decent job on the origins of "okay" in
the second book. He notes that Eric Partridge in _Origins_ (pub. 1983)
says "OK" derives from the OK Club, which supported Martin "Old Kinderhook"
van Buren in 1840. But this is only 0.5 of the story.
William and Mary Morris in the _Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase
Origins_ (1977) mentions the OK Club and also several other theories
(there's a good one about Haiti). But, Allen Walker Read wrote a series
of articles in the journal _American Speech_ in 1963 and 1964 which he
cites as best delineated. The letters of OK stand for "oll korrect" and
are the result of a fad for comical abbreviations that fluorished in the
1830s and 1840s (Cece mentions that Read cited "hundreds of citations"
to support his argument).
Cecil goes on to mention some interesting abbreviations in passing
(e.g., NG, "no go") and that exaggerated misspellings were a basic
tool of humorists in those days (vestiges of this practice are still
found in certain, esoteric areas, such as USENET). He notes that OK
was first found in print in Boston in 1839, but really took off when
van Buren was running for President. Other folks have mentioned Andrew
Jackson in connection (or connexion) with this thread. Cecil notes
that van Burens' opponents tried to use OK against van Buren by saying
that it originated with VG's allegedly illegitimate predecessor, Jackson,
"a story that still survives to this day". His enemies also went to
derive other interpretations (e.g., "Out of Kash", "Out of Kredit", and
[my favorite], "Out of Klothes"). Other folks came up with "Oll Killed",
"Often Kontradicts", etc.
It was a catchy slogan and after it got so popular, people began to forget
its origins and came up with other etymologies. Cecils mentions some of
1. Derivative of the Choctaw Indian affirmative "okeh". Jackson was
said to have introduced it into white american talk.
2. It was a telegraphic signal for "open key" (i.e., "ready to
receive"). Problem was, first telegraph message was sent in 1844.
3. "OK" stands for O. Kendall & Sons, a supplier of biscuits to the
army that stamped its initials on its products.
4. From the name of a Haitian port "Aux Cayes" (noted for its rum). A
variation is that it came from the French "au quai" or "to the dock",
which referred to cotton approved for loading.
5. Stands for Obediah Kelly, a RR freight agent who used to stamp his
initials on shipping documents.
6. From the Greek "Olla Kalla" or "all good".
7. A German general who fought on the American side (you know, the good
guys) in the Revolutionary War who used to stamp his documents for
and, of course, others. So, if you like and have faith in Cecil, that's
it (subject to any of my own errors in input of course). If you don't,
too bad. It does cover a number of proposed etymologies (including the
van Buren/Jackson one).
Terry "I hope I won't FAQ this one up" Chan
INTERNET: firstname.lastname@example.org BITNET: email@example.com
"I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I
generalize, I don't care." -- Dave Barry