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Why we say “OK”


  • Published on: 2018-09-12
  • there's a two letter word that we hear everywhere [Music] okay might be the most recognizable word on the planet okay it's essential to how we communicate with each other and even with our technology Alexa turn off the living room light okay you probably use it every day even if you don't notice it but what is okay actually mean and where did it come from okay okay then okay thank you okay actually traces back to in 1830s fad of intentionally misspelling abbreviations young intellectual types in Boston delighted those in the know with butchered coded messages such as Casey or enough said KY no use and Oh W alright but thanks to a couple of lucky breaks one abbreviation rose above the rest okay or all correct in the early 1800s all correct was a common phrase used to confirm that everything was in order it's abbreviated cousin started going mainstream on March 23rd 1839 when okay was first published in the Boston Morning Post soon other papers picked up on the joke and spread it around the country until okay was something everyone knew about not just a few Boston insiders and okay's newfound popularity even prompted a flailing u.s. president from Kinderhook New York to adopt it as a nickname during his 1840 reelection campaign van Buren supporters formed ok clubs all over the country and their message was pretty clear old Kinderhook was all correct the campaign was highly publicized and turned pretty nasty in the press his opponents ended up turning the abbreviation around on it saying it stood for orful conspiracy or orful catastrophe in the end even a clever nickname didn't save them Aaron's presidency but it was a win for okay that 1840 presidential campaign firmly established okay in the American vernacular and while similar abbreviations fell out of fashion okay made the cross over from slang into legitimate use thanks to one invention The Telegraph if we lower the bridge the current flows to the sundial at the other end the current energizer is an electromagnet and this attracts the ammeter the armature kicks down against a screw and taps out a message The Telegraph debuted in 1844 just five years after okay it transmitted short messages in the form of electric pulses with combinations of dots and dashes representing letters of the alphabet this was okay his moment to shine the two letters were easy to tap out and very unlikely to be confused with anything else it was quickly adopted as a standard acknowledgement of a transmission received especially by operators on the expanding the u.s. railroad this telegraphic manual from 1865 even goes as far to say that no message is ever regarded as transmitted until the office receiving it gives okay okay had become serious business but there's another big reason the two letter stuck around and it's not just because they're easy to communicate it has to do with how okay looks or more specifically how the letter K looks and sounds it's really uncommon to start a word with the letter K in English it's ranked around 22nd in the alphabet that rarity spurred a craze for K at the turn of the century in advertising in print where companies replaced heartsease with Kay's in order to catch your eye the idea was that modifying a word like clear flax linen rugs or this cook right stove for example would draw more attention to it and that's still a visual strategy we see K represented in modern corporate logos like Krispy Kreme and kool-aid it's the k' that makes it so memorable by the 1890s okay's Bostonian origins were already mostly forgotten and newspapers began to debate its history often perpetuating myths in the process that some people still believe like the claim that it comes from the Choctaw word okay which means so it is Choctaw gave us the word okay okay's beginnings had become obscure but it didn't really matter anymore the word was embedded in our language today we use it as the ultimate neutral affirmative okay then okay okay okay say say okay Alan Metcalf wrote the definitive history of okay and he explains that the word affirms without evaluating meaning it doesn't convey any feelings it just acknowledges and accepts information if you got home okay it just means you were unharmed if your food was okay then it was acceptable and okay confirms a change of plans it's sort of a reflex at this point we don't even keep track of how much we use it which might be why okay was arguably the first word spoken when humans landed on the moon not bad for a corny joke from the 1830s all right guys cut it out [Music]
  • Runtime: 05:22
  • OK, okay, history, linguistics, language, vox, Vox.com, etymology, origin, newspaper, telegraph, martin van buren, old kinderhook, ok club, explain, explainer, why we say ok, origin of ok, why we say okay, origin of okay, what does okay mean, what does ok mean

COMMENTS: 100

  • Vox

    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 adapted into language worldwide, none of them can actually be traced in their influence the way "oll korrect" can. Neat. - Coleman

  • Simba

    You wanna know who really gave us the word okay? God😁

  • Joshua Ramos

    Ok the only word that never seems to lose its meaning after its been repeated so many times

  • Amina Frazier

    At 3:42 Kraft is someone's actual name. It's not a marketing strategy.

  • Chris

    Why is it sometimes spelt Okay sometimes instead of OK

  • Noah Blair

    Okay is 4 letter word... OK is an abbreviated form of it.

  • H M

    The science behind the Kardashians is revealed

  • Sackbot 2011

    Wait. So the word ok started as a meme for a select few and grew into the most used word in the english language? So does that mean that oof is the next ok?

  • sp ts

    This story is not true ....the story goes back to a place in Greece which the are shipping protect for the eupore and the forced to every box to be checked before shipping and because they wanted to be faster they short the phrase " ολα καλα " which means "everything is fine" to O.K. ...... Check that vox

  • Dark Modern

    Nope, its an american term we gained from native american linguistics, like lasso. It derives from the shortened word "hokay" You can see it in Mark Twain. Its from the Oklahoma region of tribes, along with Heya/Heyahoka which became "Hey" over the years. I wouldnt be suprised if the news articles you sourced were published by people eager to anglicize mative american culture that was too indelible to eradicate. Early truthspeak.

  • Victor Mançur

    How can I help with subtitles? I'm from Brazil and I love this channel, but I can't share with my friends or the community 'cause most Brazilians doesn't know English.

  • its_a_trab

    Fun fact, we say ok in dutch too. Idk about other languages but we say it in holland

  • Aꙅꙅ dAↄkwAᴙbꙅ

    Well, the Bloods replace their C's to B's and the Crips change their B's to C's. Trying to remember that would drive me brazy.

  • John Borden

    You mean to tell me that cheeky hipsters from Boston started all of this?

  • Michal Nemecek

    I thought OK came from Of Course (K because Course is pronounced with a K sound)

  • Michal Nemecek

    I thought OK came from Of Course (K because Course is pronounced with a K sound

  • I’m Bored

    During this video I kept saying ok 😂💀🤷‍♀️

  • little miss

    When my Mom calls me Me: Hello....yes Me: Ok Me: Ok Me: Ok Me: Ok Me: Ok Me: Ok Me: Bye

  • Κωνσταντίνος Χρυσοστόμου

    Actually it originates from the British and the Greeks when doing trade, the Greeks would write OK on cargo boxes (short for Όλα Καλά = Óla Kalá= all good/ everything is good- indirect translation ). The British obviously read it O-K and that’s how the abréviation was born.

  • Brendan Sullivan

    you had the chance to end the video with "OK guys cut it out" and u missed it

  • Billion EP Purba

    It infuriates me how you guys didn't include the reference of "Ok" in the fault in our Stars.

  • Sally Shoaf

    So basically the popularization of OK has to do with a r/fellowkids

  • That Guy

    0:16 Wow. I literally can't believe Vox thinks the OK hand sign is ok. It's aactually a white supremacist literally hitler hand sign. Jail anyone that replies to this

  • Crochet With Ayden

    Isn’t it annoying when people comment the same thing as you and they get thousands of likes and you get none?

  • Justin H

    Whenever you go to a website, if the page loads the server returned a "200 OK" HTTP Status code. So even computers say "OK."