Many of us use it everyday. It’s widely understood around the world. But what does it mean and where does it come from?
An article in today’s BBC News magazine looks at “How ‘OK’ took over the world”.
OK is a strange and unique word or expression and its meaning and origin are contested. We usually use it to to mean that something is agreed or accepted. It can also conclude a conversation to indicate the discussion is finished such as “OK, Bye”, especially on the phone. It could be used in less positive ways, something can be OK as in not too bad but not brilliant either.
It is mostly considered to have originated in American English in the nineteenth century as a version of “all correct”, but there are other possibilities such as from the term okeh in the Native American Choctaw language or waw-key from Wolof and Bantu. It may also come from the Greek Ola Kala “All Good”.
We don’t know where in the world it came from, but has it taken over the world?
It has equivalents in many languages, with subtle variations of usage and meaning. It can be considered in-polite at times in India. Sometimes such as in Cantonese it will be used as part of a smattering of English terms, but usually it has its own version in the language.
While it is not used much in print, we use OK in everyday speech all the time. We will encounter OK frequently when engaging with technology. We click on the word OK often while negotiating our way round the internet or using software on computers. I sometimes even think of the action of clicking on the dialog button as “Ok-ing that” but maybe that is just me!
Is that OK?