Now, the VOA Learning English program, Words and Their Stories.
Millions of people all over the world use the word okay. In fact, some peoplesay the word is used more often than any other word in the world.
It may be common, but no one can seem to agree on how the “OK” came to be. Faith Lapidus tells us more.
|In this 1985 file photo, President Ronald Reagan gives the A OK sign from the window of his hospital room at the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland as first lady Nancy Reagan waves to a small group below. The president is recovering from surgery performed Saturday to remove a cancerous polyp. (AP Photo/Scott Stewart)|
Okay means “all right” or “acceptable.” It expresses agreement or approval.You might ask your brother, “Is it okay if I borrow your car?” Or if someoneasks you to do something, you might say, “Okay, I will.” Still, language expertsdo not agree about where the word came from.
Some people say it came from the Native American Indian tribe known as theChoctaw. The Choctaw word “okeh” means the same as the American wordokay. Experts say early explorers in the American West spoke the Choctawlanguage in the nineteenth century. The language spread across the country.
But many people dispute this.
Language expert Allen Walker Read wrote about the word okay in reportspublished in the 1960s. He said the word began being used in the 1830s. It was a short way of writing a different spelling of the words “all correct.” Someforeign-born people wrote “all correct” as “o-l-l k-o-r-r-e-c-t,” and used theletters O.K.
Other people say a railroad worker named Obadiah Kelly invented the wordlong ago. They said he put the first letters of his names -- O and K -- on eachobject people gave him to send on the train.
Still others say a political organization invented the word. The organizationsupported Martin Van Buren for president in 1840. They called their group, the O.K. Club. The letters were taken from the name of the town where MartinVan Buren was born — Old Kinderhook, New York.
Not everyone agrees with this explanation, either. But experts do agree that the word is purely American. And it has spread to almost every country onEarth.
Then there is the expression A-Okay. This means everything is fine. A-Okayis a space-age expression. It was used in 1961 during the flight of astronautAlan Shepard. He was the first American to be launched into space. His flightended when his spacecraft landed in the ocean, as planned. Shepardreported: "Everything is A-Okay.”
However, some experts say the expression did not begin with the space age.One story says it was first used during the early days of the telephone to tellan operator that a message had been received.
There are also funny ways to say okay. Some people say okey-dokey orokey-doke. These expressions were first used in the 1930s. Today, acharacter on the American television series, “The Simpsons,” says it anotherway. He says okely-dokely.
Thanks, Faith. This program was written by Shelley Gollust.