Thursday, August 18, 2011

ok, o.K., OKAY!

I used to believe the saying “there is nothing new under the sun”— until yesterday. I was at the market and I heard a woman say to her friend, “I’ve been trying to gain a few pounds.”

No, you didn’t read that incorrectly. A woman actually expressed the desire to GAIN weight.

Next thing you know the penis reduction industry will boom. Children will be throwing tantrums when their parents give them cookies instead of broccoli. Kim Kardashian will have a small, intimate wedding.

Of course, I turned around to see what this woman looked like, and she was definitely thin. But in my experience, even thin women want to be thinner. Women who wear a size 2 want to wear a size 0. Women who wear a size 0 still think they have five pounds to lose. It’s Southern California. She’s lucky there wasn’t a cop around; she might have been arrested.

I can only remember one other time when my concept of reality had been rocked so hard.

I had always assumed words started out long, and then we’d get lazy and abbreviate them. For example, television had been shortened to TV, sexually transmitted diseases to STDs, United States of America to USA, and Puff Daddy to P. Diddy to Diddy.

So imagine how shocked I was when I learned that the word OK started as an abbreviation and then later was lengthened to the word okay.

The origin of OK is still considered a mystery, but the most popular theory is that in 1839 when comical misspellings were all the rage (remember that?), OK stood for Orl Korrect, which was the comical misspelling of All Correct. Soon after, OK became a word of its own and kept the meaning “All Correct.”

I did not know this. Consequently, for years, I have been correcting my students’ OKs and O.K.s with okays.

However, different style guides prefer different expressions of the word. For example, the Associated Press Style Guide prefers OK, the New York Times prefers O.K., and Garner's Modern American Usage prefers okay.

Which expression of the word do you prefer?

Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, or Diddy?

I mean, OK, O.K., or okay.


“Okay vs OK.” Words Between the Spaces. 13 Jan. 2010. Web. 17 August 2011.


Shelly said...

I never knew that about OK- or that there is actually a woman alive on this planet who wants to gain weight. Live and learn-

Rachael said...

I love all the conflicting theories about where "OK" came from - my favorite is that it was after a brand of rum called Aux Cayes, which was apparently never popular enough for this theory to have any merit. I've always gone with "okay" because I find all-caps abbreviations jarring.

Shannon said...

I usually switch it up between OK and okay. I don't like too many periods. :)

And it's Sean Combs for me.

Shannon said...

(okie dokey is a favorite too)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Ironically, I usually say 'all right' instead.
Hey, I've seen some women who desperately needed a box of Twinkies!

Gorilla Bananas said...

OK is best. Always use the variant with the fewest characters.

Janet Johnson said...

Interesting! I didn't know that about OK. I usually spell it out in writing and use OK for other stuff.

And I have known one of two women wanting to gain weight, but it was usually connected with an illness. Interesting.

Traci said...

I like ok because it's easier but I've always tried to use okay because I thought it was proper. BTW Great post, especially since you're shedding light on important subjects like the Kardashians and skinny people who want to gain weight. LOL

Crystal Pistol said...

There was time I wanted to gain a few pounds. It was after I had participated in a figure competition. I was downright skeletal.

But yesterday I popped a button off my size 2 skirt. I'm back to wanting a smaller rump.

I'm not okay with a Kardashian booty on my person.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

I'm okay with all three forms. I'm glad abbreviations can be lengthened just as long words can be shortened. Will the wonders of the English language never cease?

James Garcia Jr said...

I have forgotten more rules than I remember. I'm terrible! Sentences simply look incorrect to me and something behind my brain seems to (mostly) know when to correct it. Pathetic, I know.
Having written all of that, I defer to you, my Captain. I am prepared to stand behind whichever you believe to be the correct spelling. *wipes forehead*


Dylan Fitzgerald said...

I use "okay," mostly because I don't want to have to deal with the dilemma of where to put punctuation after an existing period. How would you end a sentence with O.K.? Can a question mark follow a period? WHEN WILL THE MADNESS STOP?

Liz said...

I agree with Dylan. That, and I hate hitting the shift key, so I tend to go with okay.

Jaya J said...

I usually do with with okay. Rarely OK.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Many years ago I wrote it “okay”, but I stopped that after acquiring the book ‘Why You Say It’ by Webb Garrison.

Pg. 36:
…Admirers of Martin Van Buren, born at Kinderhook, New York, lauded him as Old Kinderhook when at age fifty-eight he made a bid for a second term in the White House. Running against war hero William Henry Harrison, it was to be an uphill battle.

Democrats of New York City formed a booster club and launched a campaign to raise money and win votes. On March 23, 1840, the city’s New Era newspaper published an announcement: “The Democratic O.K. Club are hereby ordered to meet at the house of Jacob Colvin on Tuesday evening.”

During a heated campaign that fizzled in the end, the president’s abbreviated nickname popularized the rare New England phrase. Since then, the American-born political slogan has spread around the world.

I don’t write it as O.K. because when I use those letters I am not referring to “Old Kinderhook”. So I always write it as OK and I don’t even “miss the periods”.

~ D-FensDogg
‘Loyal American Underground’

Theresa Milstein said...

I had no idea they were so comical about spelling way back then. What a hoot!

I always thought okay was the proper spelling. Who knew?

Confession: In high school, I was 92 pounds. I used to drink Sustacal in an attempt to gain weight. It didn't work.

Those were the days...

Laura Barnes said...

OMG, what great trivia. I usually go back and forth from "ok" and "okay". My professor in a recent MA level creative writing class corrected all my "ok"s to "okay". So you aren't alone! LOL

Great to meet you. What an awesome title for a blog :)

my day in a sentence said...

I heard that "ok" came from the "0 k" (0 killed) sign that soldiers held when coming from a battle. If there were no people killed, that is. I can see why that would start to simply mean "good" over time. :D

Powdered Toast Man said...

Ive shortened it to just 'k'. But lately I have just made a clicking noise instead of saying ok.

MartyrMom said...

Oh dear! Because of texting, I've just shortened the ok to just plain "k" (no quotation marks). My granddaughter thinks I'm lazy. I don't know about that since I spent a whole lot of time looking for the skit that was on SNL with these guys

singing how they needed a smaller penis....not on there yet >:(

Talli Roland said...

I always use 'okay'. I can't stand O.K.! It just looks too cluttered.

Liz said...

When I'm texting, usually ok. When I'm writing, usually okay. My real favorite is obkb! "Clarissa Explains It All" anyone??

Anonymous said...

Just want to start by saying I would be that girl behind you in the grocery store line. I have always said I want to gain weight and it has been a very difficult process for me.

As for the o.k / okay dilemma I am really flexible. I prefer okay when writing something formal but in informal writing I dont feel there is much of a difference.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Best: OK
Next, if I'm trying to be "formal": okay.
I don't like the . - It seems unnecessary.

WalksLikeAnEgyptian said...

I dislike using “O.K.” - it's tiresome to capitalize AND punctuate, and it looks like I’m yelling!! Also, Dylan is right about punctuating a sentence already ending with punctuation. I dodged that landmine this time. (Whew.)

I mostly use the grammatically incorrect, all-lower-case “ok” because I’m too kool for skool, yo.

I use the spelled out “okay” in more formal situations:

“I’m planning to take all of next month off as paid vacation; is that okay?”

Prepare to be rocked again, miss Missed: I actually know someone who thinks his penis is too big. To my disappointment I have not seen it, but I have heard the stories. The glorious stories…

Glynis said...

I do not like the woman. OK I have never met her but I do not like her! Gain weight. Pah!

I tend to go for OK or okay.

Thanks for the lesson. I didn't know the history behind the word.

Glynis Smy (writer)