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OK : The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word

2.91 (118 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

It is said to be the most frequently spoken (or typed) word on the planet, more common than an infant's first word ma or the ever-present beverage Coke. It was even the first word spoken on the moon. It is OK - the most ubiquitous and invisible of American expressions, one used countless times every day. Yet few of us know the secret history of OK - how it was coined, what it stood for, and the amazing extent of its influence. Allan Metcalf here traces the evolution of America's most popular word, writing with brevity and wit, and ranging across American history with colourful portraits of the nooks and crannies in which OK survived and prospered. He describes how OK was born as a lame joke in a newspaper article in 1839, used as a supposedly humorous abbreviation for "oll korrect" (i.e, "all correct"), but should have died a quick death, as most clever coinages do. However OK was swept along in a nineteenth-century fad for abbreviations, was appropriated by a presidential campaign (one of the candidates being called "Old Kinderhook"), and finally was picked up by operators of the telegraph. Over the next century and a half, it established a firm toehold in the American lexicon, and eventually became embedded in pop culture, from the "I'm OK, You're OK" of 1970's transactional analysis, to Ned Flanders' absurd "Okeley Dokeley!" Indeed, OK became emblematic of a uniquely American attitude, and is one of the country's most successful global exports. Anyone who loves the life of words or the quirky corners of American culture will find this delightful book more than just OK.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 134.62 x 180.34 x 25.4mm | 294.83g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195377931
  • 9780195377934
  • 932,372

Review quote

intriguing. * Mail on Sunday 2 * Ok provides a beguiling perspective upon linguistic serendipity * The Independent * wonderfully crafted biography of the world's hardest working word. * Sunday Telegraph *show more

About Allan Metcalf

Allan Metcalf is Professor of English at MacMurray College and Executive Secretary of the American Dialect Society. He is the author of many books, including most recently Writing to the Point:, Sixth Edition (2008).show more

Rating details

118 ratings
2.91 out of 5 stars
5 8% (9)
4 18% (21)
3 39% (46)
2 30% (35)
1 6% (7)
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