This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library License images from £2.99 Pay by PayPal for images for immediate download Member of British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA)

Curious expressions: OK

Posted in Language, Oddities, Puzzle on Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Click on any image for details about licensing for commercial or personal use.

Jackson, picture, image, illustration

President Jackson

We all use the expression OK, and we all know what it means – it’s a short term to indicate agreement or to suggest that things are satisfactory. Yet its origin is obscure.

It’s widely believed, for example, that Andrew Jackson, the American president, thought that it was an abbreviation for “oll Kurrect”, a piece of information to hearten the worst of spellers. Then it was put about that it stood for Old Kinderhook, New York State, the birthplace of a leading 19th century American politician: and in fact the town was sometimes referred to by its initials.

The surprising fact emerged from some recent research that OK really may have sprung from “oll kurrect”, though the connection with the far from supremely literate Andrew Jackson was political rather than etymological, the work of his enemies.

Apparently there was a craze for comic misspellings and abbreviations in Boston during the late 1830s. These became so well known that OK came to mean “all correct”, with knowledge of the intermediate “oll kurrect” being assumed.

It should be pointed out that attempts have also been made to derive the expression from Jamaican – oh ki – and Surinamese – okee.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.