My Grandfather collected various stories on this little gem, after having his interest sparked by a friend in an after-dinner quiz
. He looked into various etymological
dictionaries, but found little evidence proving the origin of the word. Some years later, he had amassed the following explanations:
1. Most likely it stands for 'Oll Korrect', which is purported to be a misspelling of 'All Correct'. Andrew Jackson
supposedly was responsible for this. Supposedly.
2. Or perhaps it meant 'Open Key' in telegraph jargon. Could be.
3. Sailing round Haiti in the 1980's, he heard other travellers refer to the port of 'Aux Cayes' as O.K. Perhaps.
4. During the war
, he heard OK crop up, ostensibly as an abbreviation for the German Oberst-Kommandant. This might explain why the term is in use in Europe today. May be.
5. A British nineteenth century industrialist named Oliver or Oscar Kimble is supposed to have stated that his products were O.K., thereby implying his merchandise was of good quality. Possibly.
I have to admit that I do not know which of these explanations is korrect
; they are all hopelessly vague, although most people I have spoken to tend to agree that the misspelling of All Correct is most likely. Possibly all these stories are incorrect, but in that case, who knows where the word's exegesis
informed me that I'd missed two of the commonest suggestions.
The first is that it originated from the Cherokee
'okeh', meaning the same thing, the other is the 'Old Kinderhook
' story. Kinderhook is the name of the town in which Martin van Buren
was born. Apparently, Old Kinderhook was his nickname, and was used as part of his advertizing slogans by friendly parties, forming the O.K. democrats. Alternatively, it is suggested that apples grown in or near Kinderhook during the 18th century were packed in wooden crates, marked "O.K.", which is how the apples were referred to.
JudyT also pointed out that the term couldn't be WW2 German because the term is first seen at least in the 19th century (some maintain it is 18th century).
I'll get on the phone to my Grandfather...