Released on 12 JUL 2012
OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word
“In OK, his wonderfully crafted biography of the world’s hardest-working word, Allan Metcalf sorts out the real birth of OK from the false, if intriguing, reports of its creation that have surfaced over the past two centuries.” The Daily Telegraph
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 hidden history of OK – how it was coined, what it stood for, and the amazing extent of its influence.
Allan Metcalf, a renowned popular writer on language, here traces the evolution of one of the world’s most popular words, 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 (ie, all correct) – but should have died a quick death, as most clever coinages do.
But 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 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 can be seen as one of its most successful global exports.
9780195377934 | £12.99 | 12 July 2012
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