One of the most popular questions on Yahoo! Answers is also one of the simplest: Where does the phrase “OK” come from? There are a slew of sites dedicated to the origin of this all-purpose term. Here, everything you need to know about the phrase few of us could live without.
According to legend, the term “OK” got its start as a campaign slogan for President Martin Van Buren. Nicknamed “Old Kinderhook” for his place of birth in New York, Van Buren unsuccessfully ran for re-election in 1840. His supporters were known as the “OK Club.” In the many years since, some have credited Van Buren (or his campaign team) with coming up with the phrase. But, with apologies to Old Kinderhook, that isn’t exactly true.
According to The Straight Dope, the phrase got its start decades earlier. Originally, “OK” stood for “Oll Korrect.” As Ask Yahoo! put it, “The phrase comes from a curious fad for ‘comical abbreviations’ that swept the country in the 1830s and 1840s.” Van Buren and his team certainly helped to make the phrase popular, but it was already in the lexicon before his campaign.
And while the phrase is only two letters, its popularity can’t be overestimated. According to Word Origins, the term is the most popular American phrase of all time. By the early 20th century, it was being spoken by people all around the world.
In the years since, the phrase has been extended (and shortened) in all sorts of bizarre ways. From the text message friendly “K” to the Ned Flanders version, “Okily-dokily.”
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