I saw the book on vacation. It’s all about the word, “OK.” The subtitle of the book is, “The improbable story of America’s Greatest Word.” I bought it from a used book store when I got home.
I read a bunch of the book standing in a tiny book store in Upstate New York. It was the book store, ranger station, headquarters for the Martin Van Buren National Historical Site. It was his home. It is a beautiful place high above the Hudson River. It is covered with trees and long sweeping drive. He served as president in 1837-1841. He was trying to get re-elected in 1840. He was born in Kinderhook, New York.
Just the year before, a popular parlor game involved misspelling words on purpose and then abbreviating them and then making fun of people who did not get the joke (the spelling elites are a barrel of fun). Like KG stood for “no go” because of the play on the word “no” which sounds like the word “know.” See what I mean, really fun game. OK stood for “all correct,” but spelled “oll korrect.” This hilarious game did not last long, but the artifact OK lurked around. By the end of 1839 it had been used a dozen times in the newspapers of the area.
Then came the election. Van Buren was running against William “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” Harrison. Van Buren needed a catchy slogan. They settled on Van Buren was “OK.” He was the “Old Kinderhook” (see birthplace) and he was kinda hip because the young people liked the word game so it was kind making fun of him for being old while saying he was in touch with the modern world.
The voters did not return him to the presidency, they did however keep the “OK.” It spread to every corner of the country. It was repeated in newspapers around the world. One linguist claims that the only English word to spread more widely is Coke.
As words go, I hear it frequently, but for me OK is not good enough. OK is middle, bland and acceptable. It’s another version of “fine.” I want the world to be “fantastic,” “excellent,” or “amazing.” I wonder if the word spread so rapidly because so many people in the world really expereince the world as disappointing. Jesus wants us to have more than an OK life. He promises, “I Have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10). I’m going to adopt the phrase, I’m AOK. “Abundantly Outstandingly Kyle.” How about you?