OK: The Improbable Story of Americas Greatest Word

Paperback | March 7, 2012

byAllan Metcalf

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It is said to be the most frequently spoken (or typed) word on the planet, more common than an infant's first word ma or the ever-present beverage Coke. It was even the first word spoken on the moon. It is "OK" - the most ubiquitous and invisible of American expressions, one used countlesstimes every day. Yet few of us know the hidden history of OK - how it was coined, what it stood for, and the amazing extent of its influence. Allan Metcalf, a renowned popular writer on language, here traces the evolution of America's most popular word, writing with brevity and wit, and ranging across American history with colorful portraits of the nooks and crannies in which OK survived and prospered. He describes how OK was born as alame joke in a newspaper article in 1839 - used as a supposedly humorous abbreviation for "oll korrect" (ie, "all correct") - but should have died a quick death, as most clever coinages do. But OK was swept along in a nineteenth-century fad for abbreviations, was appropriated by a presidentialcampaign (one of the candidates being called "Old Kinderhook"), and finally was picked up by operators of the telegraph. Over the next century and a half, it established a firm toehold in the American lexicon, and eventually became embedded in pop culture, from the "I'm OK, You're OK" of 1970'stransactional analysis, to Ned Flanders' absurd "Okeley Dokeley!" Indeed, OK became emblematic of a uniquely American attitude, and is one of our most successful global exports.

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It is said to be the most frequently spoken (or typed) word on the planet, more common than an infant's first word ma or the ever-present beverage Coke. It was even the first word spoken on the moon. It is "OK" - the most ubiquitous and invisible of American expressions, one used countlesstimes every day. Yet few of us know the hidden ...

Allan Metcalf is Professor of English at MacMurray College and Executive Secretary of the American Dialect Society. He is the author of many other books on language, including most recently Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. Bush (2004). He participates in the "Lingua Franca" blog of the Chronicle ...

other books by Allan Metcalf

Format:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 7 × 5 × 0.68 inPublished:March 7, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199892539

ISBN - 13:9780199892532

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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Oddity of OK1. The Joke2. Old Kinderhook3. The Jackson Myth4. Telegraphic OK5. The Business of OK6. OK in Literature7. Presidential "okeh"8. Okey-Dokey9. The Practical OK10. The Philosophical OK: Twentieth Century11. The Psychological OK12. The Philosophical OK: Twenty-first CentEpilogue: OK Around the World