Monday, March 06, 2006

I’m ok, you’re okay

The metamorphosis of o.k. is one of the success stories of international language.

This flexible little word is a "sentence substitute", to give it its correct grammatical title.

It is an American creation of the 19th century. It quickly and easily became accepted in international English and thence to almost every other spoken language in the world.

C’est ok, n’est-ce pas? Its etymology is shrouded in legend.

Theories range from nicknames or someone’s initials, an adaptation of a non-English place name (eg ‘aux cayes’) or from the initials of a jokey alteration (o)ll (k)orrect.

It is that last most banal of explanations that find most favour with scholars with a hint of one the former explanations to bolster it. The story goes that in the early 1800s, young university students in Harvard and Yale took to writing ‘oll korrect’ and ‘oll wright’ as a long running, if not particularly funny, joke.

The sayings became contracted to their initials and although ‘ow’ never really took off, "ok’ quickly gathered pace. It was helped considerably by Martin Van Buren’s unsuccessful presidential campaign of 1840. Van Buren’s nickname was ‘Old Knickerbockers’ conveniently shortened to "ok". It first made its way into print in March 1839 in the Boston Morning Post.

The phrase has never looked back since. It is a simple but clearly versatile word and can mean agreeable (is everything ok?), satisfactory (an ok outcome), somewhere between mediocre and satisfactory (it wasn't great but it was ok), in working order (does the pen work ok?), correct (your answer is ok), safe (he was in a car crash but is ok), healthy (how are you? I'm ok).

No wonder so many other languages have appropriated it. Are you ok with that?


Why can’t we buy from ourselves
Those leaves and loaves
That left us free from responsibility
And uncertain agility
Uncommon dying,
practice the part
Expert de-liars
Cannon conundrum
Nigger on a promise or a problem
Narcissus by the rye and slang
Equal spelled out by Warsaw
Worship sought out by sexagent sinners
One in ten, none of aught.
Burning man we thought we’d never lose
Cosmos surge and commons urge
Daily champion of the hours bread
Craft work machine of fashion
Cruelly exposed and ashen
12 hours a bed and batten
Thems finest hours of deepest day
That slip away and never know
The light that let them go
Scribbling cripple
Cripped and cribbed
Leg and limbed
Heart and hibbed
On the castle road
Scan the navy yard
Back from a russia once belong
Svengali tiger terror
loosened from the oblong glare of space
And muck into the mouey of themselm disease
Count severe is sev ten overboard
Bubbly in water with polished man and truth
Left to lug the lifts and tows
Under the scissors where nobody mows
Elephant grise eminence
Fulcrum at Asia Minor
Istanbul recapitalises international islam
The new sofia with the old silver
Walking the plank of two cultures
Where the sign in the park scaffolds scarfing
A hemispheric haimes
corruption of sculpture
The new driving force of Europe will again emerge
From Granada’s electric shadow
opal skin conmen in constant tin Opels
days of saladins lampooned
conquest buried deep in the hatchet is the anger of gold
and fondness for survival is in the cauldron of dreams
Where mosquitoes bites are bestest boar, it seems
Leninist fundamental gods with a fondness for margarita
Listening to yoyo’s balalaika
Whirling nerdishly
Undeniannihilating chilli
And fivetimes silly
fixing the clock to their new jerusalem
In Saudi greed unpleasant land between us
Handpainted funky ecru medinas
Worth rial dollars in hard currency
five to the petrokelly
A sound gone wonky in cliumphing ember.
Say it with numbers
Polygraphic obsolenity
Register with regularity
Sandwiched between two wipes of a hum
Fed to the hungry hoards
And left to lie in substance what the universe will
mostly vanish in atro
Specialist vatican sellers
Squelletin board by slithered assassins
Mama look who sat in the watching
Endangered by dwindling influence
Potato safari, good timing two-suited
Benobo balbriggan
Crushed by iterramus the camp follower
Re-invent and vested in the harness of luck
Was blinded by a refusal to care about the what
Both died a death for each dread nought
anguish in uberbeenshire
Borne on the firth of July,
With the sausage packed and exported
In practice unsacred
God is on the lam
Feeding the need with buckets of speed
Curling home bruise and hookers with hookahs
None of them lookers
Ferra terra ignoramus
Fella Let me tell ya.
When they found out they were not lame anymore
They rose and blew the house down with the compression and anger
And achieved local prominence with hardened features
Creeping up with the endowed jones
Well-rounded in danish temptations
Sharing the accommodation
Pulverised the plural community
With pesticidal mortars
Proanzac prosaic trouser-pressed powders
Shirty spots unter den linen
Hurt bacchanalien
Dirt-drifted oars in coalsigns spit
Siroccosure sockamamy
Curds slip by in belted ovals
Tesselated, noise abated firkin gas
Gormen guilden guns aghast and rosen
Measly medal count is mynah business
Clock crocodile obey the ten metre penalty rules
And the limit that everybody fools
Is crushed by tidal time, twice a day and packing
With the daemon of Athens, and the glory of Rome
Act the part of the hand of the father of
The Viking Vietcong and the brilliant Korea
Musha where have ya been, mussabejayen
mothballed in closet follicle
where you re-invent yourself in fluent boorjwa
tired of fighting
and looking for places placid
pills pious and paid for
uppers and sundowners
damaged goods and secret services
bonnie and clytemnestra
hail and hollow and schucked to the west
making mercies out of small kindnesses,
lava louche, prairie dogma
fed by rate-prayers in the veldt.
Lizard is the rodent of the pastor
And commit the terrible offence of existing before the powers
Of Christ can save you.
O multiple value jam
Sliced innbox of spam
Ingrate fell short of housed holes
Rather than defied lack of gravity
And the parfumerie was a poolhall short of a creamery
Freedom to the words
Gathering ghosts and fingergarden posts
With a release form graduation
Peckaninny sepulchre pillowplayers
Discuss stevedore highways that pillory the sea
Chandlers raise sun kind of havoc
Aeroflot jetsam with bobbing lifebelt
Squeak squoke squawking
Riffing rogers kinghit cowpersons
Mount misery milo tower of power
Self seeking silo high barrel of hey
Crane signals crashsite ahead
Avoided by a lure-a-poopin
Daffodil deadlies are darkest driffids
Weeping wallow wycliffe jeremiad
In janus we trust
If trust we must
Suddenly Vega or bust
Sun criminal inflation
Dwelt in mindsucccoured muscles
by loveboot persuasion is echoed
Rhyming eye for detail
Salome Streetsmart
Smiles here.
As it curled out of the shadows
And slid under the door
It seemed defused
snot abused
the influenza
end o' story

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