The death of OK, and the birth of “Okay”…

If I have to blame Gen Z for something it’s the legitimacy of the use of “Okay”. I STRONGLY recommend anyone born after 1998 to please revisit your language structure and avoid using your mobile phone’s auto correct or fill, because let’s direct the word…

“OK” is technically a shortened acronym of “Okay”. It has history going back nearly 180 years in the Boston Morning Post. According to this article, it states:

Bleary-eyed readers scanning page two of the Boston Morning Post on March 23, 1839, may have barely noticed the linguistic oddity buried in the blizzard of ink in the second column. At the end of a short, throwaway item taking sarcastic jabs at a Providence newspaper stood the abbreviation “o.k.” next to the words “all correct.” Much like the modern-day world filled with text-friendly shortcuts such as LOL and OMG, an abbreviation craze swept nineteenth-century America, although with a twist. In an attempt at humor, young, educated elites deliberately misspelled words and abbreviated them for slang. For example, “KG” stood for “know go,” the incorrect spelling of “no go.” The joke is lost on us today, but it was LOL funny in the 1800s.

So when “o.k.” appeared in print, it was intended to be the shortening of “oll korrect,” the humorous misspelling of “all correct.” According to Allan Metcalf, author of OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, Boston Morning Post editor Charles Gordon Greene, who often wrote witticisms and took shots at other broadsheets in print, was likely the author of the attack on the Providence newspaper and thus the man who gave birth to OK.

OK reappeared in another Boston Morning Post article three days later, and it very slowly seeped into the American vernacular during 1839. By the end of the year, it had showed up in the Boston Evening Transcript, New York Evening Tattler and the Philadelphia Gazette. The spotlight of the following year’s presidential campaign, however, set OK on the path to linguistic stardom.


The word “okay” is used often in print, specifically in books. It’s formal, but ironically in the 2010s, we are even less formal than when I was born in the late 1980s.

“Okay” has a lot of underlying tones. 1) it’s got a tone of “um, something appears to be unexpected”,  2) an awkward moment has occurred or 3) “Yes, that’s somewhat affirmative, but I am not sure.”

The boldface is the more offensive use of “Okay”. You are not clear, and affirmative when you make a decision. Using “Okay” in a text implies “um, I guess so”. Or using the word makes the other person “special”. When I mean “special”, I am talking about someone with a developmental handicap. A lot of uses of “Okay” is more like “OhhhhhhKayyyy” It used more a doubtful response, not a firm reply.

It’s like dispatching in the 1990s; before the FCC basically banned the use of ten-codes in commercial two way radio licenses; there was a list of ten-codes. 10-3 was go-ahead, 10-6 was for standby, and 10-4 is often known by so many as the implicit message of
OK, received the message” or as the Gen Z would say nowendays on a two way; “Ohhhkayyyy, I gotcha”. I miss 10-codes and “Dispatchian” language structure. It gave clear signals without butchering the English Language!

I’ve notice Western society being very wishy washy, wimpy, and not decisive. The use of your words will matter, and if you come off wishy washy, you’ll be treated wishy-washy. Use affirmative language,  and maybe people will take you seriously.

OK? 10-4? Good.


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