OK / okay

OK is the most successful of all Americanisms. It has invaded hundreds of other languages and been adopted by them as a word. Despite the term’s success, however, for years no one was really sure where the word came from. The origin of OK became the Holy Grail of etymology. Finally, in 1963 the Galahad of our story, Dr. Allen Walker Read of Columbia University uncovered the origin.

Read solved the mystery in a series of articles in American Speech in 1963-64. The term began as a facetious misspelling for all correct (oll korrect) in Boston newspapers in the spring of 1839. OK was the result of two editorial fads common in newspapers of the era.

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