OK is not okay.

Since man lived in a cave the arguments over words have been enduring. If you’ve ever had an argument about words, you know how ludicrous the battles can be. However, if you haven’t, then you might be surprised at how many ways people can argue about words.

The word okay, for example, has shown up on my radar lately. It can be the brunt of many debates. It could be argued that okay is not a word, but two mashed together. It could be said that it is a word, now that it’s been used long enough with an unchanged definition. It could even be said that okay is the least okay of all words ever.

Etymologists have tracked down one likely origin for the word okay. A news man, in a literary joke, that is still being played out on people today, spelled the words all correct as oll korrect. The initials stuck in the public mind as a way of giving an affirmative. The initials o. k. lasted for a while, went through multiple growth spurts, became capitalized, shrank back down and became a phonetic word sometimes spelled okey and other times spelled okay.

I bet you could guess why okay has changed so many times. . .that’s right, because everyone loves to argue about words. From wordsmiths to musicians, poets to plumbers, sign makers to marketing hacks, from writers to readers, the debates never end. A person sees a word, likes it that way, and that’s how they always want to see it. They’ll argue ‘til they’re ill, for the sake of a word.

One odd thing about the spelling of okay as OK, is when it’s capitalized. o.k. seems normal. Even ok is written how it would normally be pronounced. OK though, capitalized, suggests shouting, which could be confusing to the reader.

All capitalized words are to be pronounced as a shout. Three examples:

“HELLO,” came a voice from the well.

Sailor to shore: “AHOY, you land lovers.”

As soon as everyone was enjoying the movie, some joker came in with, “FIRE!”

Notice in only one of the examples above is there an exclamation point. If a word is capitalized, you don’t always need an exclamation point, because loudness is understood. Writers should take note how the words in the above examples show the reader what’s happening. Let’s do one more example:

The medic administered a sedative, asked how the patient was doing, and heard him become more calm. “Thanks for the painkiller doc. I wasn’t doing so well, but now I’m feeling OK.”

Did you feel how calm everything got at the end? How the sedative was making the patient settle? No? Me either. It’s a strange little writing hiccup, and it can easily be avoided. Here, though, I’m not even endorsing okay. The word at the end could be any number of words (fine, swell, superb, nothing), as long as they’re not capitalized.

The end of my argument is for correct usage. OK is not okay. The meaning may be the same, but the mood is not. OK would work beautifully if someone was at the bottom of a well.

Published by Kurt Gailey

This is where I'm supposed to brag about how I've written seven novels, five screenplays, thousands of short stories, four self-help books, and one children's early-reader, but I'd rather stay humble. You can find out about things I've written or follow my barchive (web archive, aka 'blog) at xenosthesia.com or follow me on twitter @kurt_gailey. I love sports and music and books, so if you're an athlete or in a band or you're a writer, give me a follow and I'll most likely follow you back. I've even been known to promote other people's projects.

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