[lit-ideas] America's Greatest Word

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 4 Nov 2010 16:59:33 EDT

From amazon.
"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 

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 secret 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 
 death, as most clever coinages do. But OK was swept along in a  
nineteenth-century fad for abbreviations, was appropriated by a presidential  
(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. 

Anyone who loves the life of words or the quirky corners of  American 
culture will find this delightful book more than just OK. 
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  books, 
including most recently Writing to the Point:, Sixth Edition  (2008).
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