By Julia Zorthian
March 24, 2016

The word ‘ok’ first appeared in print 177 years ago on Wednesday, as a jab thrown in a rivalry between Boston and Providence newspapers.

The use of the two letters (or the fully-spelled version, ‘okay’) has spread around the world to indicate varying states of positivity. But the Boston Morning Post writer of a short item firing back at some snark from the Providence Journal likely had little knowledge that the joke would resonate through the ages.

Here’s first appearance of the word ‘ok’ took place on March 23, 1839, as Atlas Obscura writes today:

While the word may have survived the test of time, the humor has not. The joke, at the expense of the Providence Journal, is that ‘o.k.’ does not stand for ‘all correct’, but for a misspelled, phonetic version of the phrase.

And just as ‘ok’ is still popular today, so is the environment that gave birth to the Post‘s joke: an “abbreviation craze.”

 

Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com.

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