Hey, Camp Folks!
‘OK’ goes back to the 1830s. You know how people love to abbreviate things nowadays like tbh, omw, and lol? Well, that’s not exactly new. Folks back in the 1830s started abbreviating quick sayings. To turn it into something of an inside joke for those that understood, kids started purposefully misspelling quick sayings. Instead of “No Go”, they would say KG for ‘know go’. Or maybe they’d say OW for “oll write”.
A common abbreviation they used was ‘OK’—short for “oll korrect”. All Correct was already a common phrase in the 1800s used to confirm that everything was in order. But it’s misspelled and abbreviated version really started taking off when it was published in the Boston Morning Post on March 23, 1839. Other papers started using it too and before long it spread across the country!
After that, OK started gaining so much traction that supporters of the President at the time, Martin Van Buren, started using the abbreviation for his reelection campaign. Being from Kinderhook, NY, Martin's message was that “Old Kinderhook” was “oll korrect”. His opponents turned it around on him, however, saying the OK stood for an “Orful Katastrophe”.
Use in the presidential campaign cemented OK in American culture and language. But by 1844, OK was elevated from slang into official and practical use with the invention of the telegraph. OK proved itself to be very helpful in a media that valued short messages being relayed by Morse Code. O and K were easy letters to tap out and were unlikely to be confused with anything else.
OK has lasted long after those other misspelled abbreviations have been forgotten. How strange that an inside joke from Boston nearly 200 years ago has maintained its popularity even now. Enjoy giving confirmation going forward and, as always, thanks for reading.