OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Color:
Image not available

To view this video download Flash Player

 


or
Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Start reading OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word [Hardcover]

by Allan Metcalf
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

List Price: $21.95
Price: $20.17 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
You Save: $1.78 (8%)
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
Want it Monday, April 28? Choose Two-Day Shipping at checkout. Details
Free Two-Day Shipping for College Students with Amazon Student

Formats

Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition $7.01  
Hardcover $20.17  
Paperback $11.57  
Big Spring Books
Editors' Picks in Spring Releases
Ready for some fresh reads? Browse our picks for Big Spring Books to please all kinds of readers.

Book Description

November 9, 2010 0195377931 978-0195377934 1
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 America's most popular word, writing with brevity and wit, and ranging across American history with colorful 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 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 our most successful global exports.

"An appealing and informative history of OK."
--Washington Post Book World

"After reading Metcalf's book, it's easy to accept his claim that OK is 'America's greatest word.'"
--Erin McKean, Boston Globe

"Entertaininga treat for logophiles."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Metcalf makes you acutely aware of how ubiquitous and vital the word has become."
--Jeremy McCarter, Newsweek

Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed


Editorial Reviews

Review


"Metcalf has produced a complete and completely entertaining history of the most American of all expressions. More than 'just OK' -- revelatory and engrossing."--Erin McKean, CEO of wordnik.com, author of Weird and Wonderful Words, More Weird and Wonderful Words, and former Editor-in-Chief, Oxford American Dictionaries


"Metcalf has written an appealing and informative history of OK." -- Washington Post Book World


"Fun and educational!"--Language Hat


"Have a look at Professor Metcalf's book yourself. It's worth your time."--You Don't Say


"I think you'll find the yarn Metcalf spins to be far better than OK...So get this book, OK? If you love words, history, or Americana, you'll find it fascinating."--Mark Peters, Good.com


"Metcalf's entertaining linguistic history is a treat for logophiles."--Kirkus Reviews


"Engagingly written as well as thoroughly researched."-- Arnold Zwicky's Blog


"Metcalf has done a remarkable job of imparting the life and times of a word that began as a joke and ended up 'the most frequently spoken (or typed) word on the planet.' Touching on its history; its use in politics, literature, and business; its tiny stature and impressive reach; and even how it reflects culture and identity, Metcalf has written an unbelievably OK book."--PopMatters.com


"I highly recommend the book...as a nice read. This is exactly the kind of book...that people who call themselves 'language lovers' should read ... it's clear and accessible and gives non-specialists...a good picture of how to think about language history and language use. And Metcalf writes in a really easy style."--Mr. Verb


"Metcalf's book is an enjoyable addition to the shelfload of books prompting us to reconsider everyday things--from appliances to the moon overhead to the air we breathe. His book, in fact, isn't just enjoyable--that's right, it's better than OK."--Los Angeles Times


"This biography-covering the history of an oft-overlooked word-is more than 'just okay.' In fact, it's pretty darn entertaining."--Failure Magazine


"The seventeen chapters of this handy little book set forth everything about OK one could reasonably ask to know...It is an impressively worthy biography, description, and analysis of what Metcalf calls 'America's greatest word.' It is a book full of entertaining facts and intriguing suggestions about the American psyche, which the history of OK illuminates...The book is full of life, highly readable, a page-turner...It is a sterling example of what linguistic scholarship can, and should, be for the general reader." --Dictionaries


About the Author


Allan Metcalf is Professor of English at MacMurray College and Executive Secretary of the American Dialect Society. He is the author of many other books on language, including most recently Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. Bush (2004). He participates in the "Lingua Franca" blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (November 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195377931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195377934
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #718,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
(6)
3.5 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something More Than OK December 14, 2010
Format:Hardcover
You have probably said, heard, or read sometime in the last day the word "OK." It is said, according to English professor Allan Metcalf, to be the most frequently spoken (or typed) word in the world. It might even be a whole philosophy of life. Well, Metcalf gets carried away with this little word, about which he has thought a great deal, and has produced _OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word_ (Oxford University Press). OK is a peculiar word in many ways, all of them evaluated here. Its frequency of use shows that it is filling an important niche, getting a meaning across when no other word will quite fit. Metcalf's book is like its subject, brisk, clear, and informal. Etymology and word usage may not be your idea of fun, but he has made them entertaining.

OK is a word invented by one person, and the person is known and the first use is known. This is not the way language usually works. Words seldom get invented, but in Boston in March 1839, there was an editor of the _Boston Post_, one Charles Gordon Greene, who wrote an editorial on some controversy now long forgotten. Specifically on 23 March 1839, he included the phrase "o.k.," and then immediately defined it as "all correct." The joke is that o.k. would stand for something being "all correct" when there's no O or K involved, that if it were really "all correct" it would be "a.c.," so OK is actually not correct at all, but it is all correct. It might have remained a joke word and been forgotten when the joke grew stale, except for peculiar and unique circumstances. There was a presidential campaign in 1840 in which Martin Van Buren, from Kinderhook, New York, became known as "Old Kinderhook," and the campaign used the new word, for they certainly wished voters to think that Old Kinderhook was OK.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cheerfully informative November 24, 2010
Format:Hardcover
It's hard to fathom that a short word like "ok" could conjure up two hundred pages of prose, but it does in Allan Metcalf's entertaining new book "OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word". The transformation of this word since its first "discovery" in the mid-1800s forms a rational basis for Metcalf's presentation and it's a successful effort.

1839 brought us the supposed invention of baseball by Abner Doubleday but it is also a year where "ok" made its first appearance...in an article printed in the Boston Morning Post. One thing that author Metcalf would like us to remember is that this is, indeed, where "ok" was first found. Helped along by the presidential campaign of 1840 where the incumbent president Martin Van Buren was assigned the nickname "Old Kinderhook", "ok", appeared with increasing popularity in the decade or two that followed.

Perhaps stemming from a parody of the phrase "oll korrect", "ok" has a value-free side, but as time went on it adopted a certain value...the "all ok" phrase so often found in early literature lessened over the years and now we find in so many instances that "ok" has developed a status of stasis.

Metcalf's book is rife with examples of American (and British) literature but it seemed to me that the present understanding of "ok" became clearest when Ring Lardner used it in his books of the early twentieth century. Could "ok" really have been the first words spoken by astronauts on the moon? A case for that can be found here.

While the history of "ok" is fascinating, Metcalf says little about the future of the word. Will it pass out of existence replaced by another expression of agreement or understanding? It may already have, to a degree.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars The authority on OK! March 21, 2014
Format:Hardcover
Interesting story of a widely used expression that most people never think about the origins of. It tells the story about Okay, and is inspirational to understanding the derivation of the English language and expressions in general.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
ARRAY(0xa611a4f8)

Forums

There are no discussions about this product yet.
Be the first to discuss this product with the community.
Start a new discussion
Topic:
First post:
Prompts for sign-in
 



Look for Similar Items by Category