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kottke.org posts about Allan Metcalf

How Did “OK” Become One of the Most Popular Words in the World?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 13, 2018

Where did the word “OK” come from and how did it become so popular?

Young Boston intellectuals in the early 1800s used a humorous code of abbreviated phrases, like “KC,” or “knuff ced”; “KY,” “know yuse”; and “OW,” “oll wright.” And while most of them eventually fell out of fashion, one abbreviation persisted: “OK,” or “oll korrect.”

OK started off as the LOL of its time. Then Martin Van Buren’s presidential campaign popularized it and its brevity proved useful for sending telegraph messages. You can read more about the history of the word in Allan Metcalf’s book, OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word.