Blog Excerpts

Celebrating 175 Years of "OK," America's Greatest Export

Yesterday, March 23, 2014, marked the 175th anniversary of a word that may be the most widely used expression in the world: "OK." MacMurray College English professor Allan Metcalf says "OK" is America's greatest export and debunks the various origin theories surrounding it.

Metcalf literally wrote the book on the word "OK," and a few years ago he began a campaign to recognize March 23 as "OK Day." We checked in with Metcalf at the time, and here is what he had to say:

It's not the first birthday of OK, of course. OK was born in the Boston Morning Post of March 23, 1839. But it's the first celebration.

Why celebrate? The author of the first book ever written on OK says recognition of America's greatest word and most successful export is long overdue.

The book is OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word, published by Oxford University Press. Author Allan Metcalf ends the book by calling OK "so mighty yet so humble. . . . We ought to celebrate OK Day every year on its birthday, March 23."

"In today's troubled world, we should be happy when things turn out OK, even if they aren't perfect," Metcalf explains. "OK inspires us to keep going."

The world-wide celebration is being chronicled on a Facebook page, OKDayMarch23.

From a joke in that Boston newspaper (a deliberate misspelling of the abbreviation for "all correct"), against all odds OK has become an essential part of conversations around the world, a way of expressing agreement and acceptance, even in the face of difficulties.

This year, for the 175th anniversary, Metcalf has continued to spread the gospel of "OK." Here he is talking to Mo Rocca on CBS Sunday Morning: 

For more on the history of "OK," read this Q&A with Metcalf on OUPblog and this column by our own contributor, University of Illinois English professor Dennis Baron.

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Comments from our users:

Monday March 24th 2014, 4:51 AM
Comment by: dejohnmi (Liverpool United Kingdom)
Och aye! There you go, another supposed Scots derivation bites the dust.
Monday March 24th 2014, 10:28 AM
Comment by: Raju Kalampuram
Very cool info on Oll Korrect..Thanks very much
Monday March 24th 2014, 6:50 PM
Comment by: Nancy FriedmanVisual Thesaurus Contributor
Metcalf wrote a delightful post for Lingua Franca about “OK Glass,” the command that Google Glass responds to.

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Happy Birthday, OK!
Predicting New Words