March 12, 2006
Our old friend, the OK Button, has gone through a few visual tweaks in the last twenty years of Windows:
There is one constant, however: the use of OK. It's an abbreviated form of Okay. But where did this word, and its convenient two-letter abbreviation, come from? The question is answered in this straight dope column on the etymology of OK:
The etymology of OK was masterfully explained by the distinguished Columbia University professor Allen Walker Read in a series of articles in the journal American Speech in 1963 and 1964.
The letters, not to keep you guessing, stand for "oll korrect." They're the result of a fad for comical abbreviations that flourished in the late 1830s and 1840s.
Read buttressed his arguments with hundreds of citations from newspapers and other documents of the period. As far as I know his work has never been successfully challenged.
The Wikipedia entry on OK offers many other theories on the etymology of the word-- but the timing of the first written appearance seems to support Reed.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
So the real question now is: when can I have an "m'kay" button?
It's interesting how only one of them doesn't have rounded corners. Okay, not that interesting...shuddup.
My favorite etymology - for which I have no evidence whatsoever - is that Henry Ford's chief inspector was named Ole Knudsen. Upon final inspection of a car leaving the line, he would initial O.K. on the car's paperwork, signifying that it was ready for delivery to a customer.
For some reason I think this one's more than okay.
I find it interesting the way you describe "OK" as an "abbreviated form of 'okay'"!
I don't think I've seen "okay" used outside of US English. Certainly I would consider "okay" to be a derivative of "OK" - not the other way around.
Oh, just to clarify, "Okay, not that interesting" was referring to my comment, not the post. Just read it back and realised it was ambiguous. lol.
Okay is UK English too. I know my dad often jokes that I not only abreviate Okay to OK, but also OK to K in texts.
[the Greek Olla Kalla explanation] really makes sense to me
I agree, but I think we would have seen OK in print long before ~1830 if this was the case!
On the Mac, the OK button was originally intended to read, "Do It", but in the Chicago font that looked too much like "Dolt". So we have OK.
PS: my comment was blocked because my URL has "questionable content": bee el oh gee ess pea oh tee. As in, undisclosed-recipients at all that dot com.
And all this time I thought it was just the abbreviation for Oklahoma. (Oscar Hammerstein II: "Oklahoma, OK!")
I always found that etymology dubious, but AHD confirms, and I trust them rather more than I do Wikipedia.
Like the word "taxi," the word "OK" is one of the most internationally recognized words. If people know 6 words of English, almost certainly "OK" will be one of them.
Mt Greek friends insist on the explanation that it's a casual acronym for Olla Kalla, or All Good. Of all the conjecture, this one really makes sense to me.
I think that makes okay the onomatopoeia of "ok" rather than ok being the abbreviation of okay.
I suspect that is makes a-ok highly redundant.
I've heard in Spain several times that the word comes from your civil war.
When a patrol was coming back to the base camp they used to do with hands the O and the K that meant 0 Kills, so it was linked to everything is right.
Don't know if you heard that in USA ...
Late to this party, but there was an old Infocom game (The Witness)where the "narrator's voice" for want of a better term, spelled it "Okeh"; plus there exists Okeh Records. That always looked better to my eyes than "okay"