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OK Day

OK, an abbreviation or word is often written as O.K., ok, or okay, is celebrated today. It is a frequently used word, and is very versatile, being used in many parts of speech. It can be used as an adjective to refer to something mediocre or average ("It was okay."); as a verb to show approval or acceptance ("He okayed the request."); as a noun showing approval ("He put his okay on the project."); as an adverb describing how well something was done ("She did okay."); and as an interjection, or discourse marker while speaking ("Okay, now it's your turn."). The word is also popular in other languages besides English.

It is believed that the word was first used in the 1830s as a slang word, particularly by those young and educated, who misspelled words intentionally and then abbreviated them. OK stood for "oll korrect," which was a misspelling of "all correct." Other slang words of the time were "KY," standing for "know yuse," a misspelling of "no use"; "KG" standing for "know go," a misspelling of no go"; and "OW," standing for "oll wright," a misspelling of all right. The word made its print debut on March 23, 1839, in The Boston Morning Post, explaining why OK Day takes place when it does.

After its print debut, it slowly began making its way into the American lexicon. It was further propelled into prominence by the 1840 presidential election. Democrat Martin Van Buren was up for reelection, and a group of his supporters trying to influence voters was called the OK Club. This name partly referred to the Van Buren nickname, Old Kinderhook (his hometown was Kinderhook, New York), and partly to the term that recently appeared in The Boston Morning Post. The phrase "OK is OK" was used by his campaign. Things didn't turn out OK for Van Buren though, as he lost the race to William Henry Harrison.

Not only did those on Van Buren's side use the phrase, but the opposing party, the Whigs, used the phrase to sully the name of Andrew Jackson, a former Democratic president and one of Van Buren's mentors. They falsely claimed that Jackson had invented the word "OK," asserting that he didn't know how to spell "all correct." They said he wrote "OK" on documents to indicate they were correct, because his spelling difficulties precluded him from writing the full phrase. Although this was completely fabricated, the idea stuck, and documents began being signed in such a way over the next few decades. The word also began being used in telegraph messages but was rarely used by prominent authors.

Allen Walker Read, an American linguist, researched the story behind the word, dismissing other rumors of how it started, and grounding the word's history in the 1839 article. Some other theories of its origin have pointed to Greek, Scottish, Wolof, Maningo, and Choctaw words that expressed agreement. For example, the Choctaw word "okeh" means "it is so."

OK Day was created by Allan Metcalf, the author of OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word, and was first held in 2011. Metcalf said "OK" may be the most important American word.

How to Observe OK Day

Celebrate the day by using the word "OK" as much as possible, okay? You can even uses phrases that are similar to it, such as "okie dokie." You could also gain a deeper understanding of the word by reading Allan Metcalf's OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word. Okay, go have some fun!

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