Even if you roll your eyes at the forced use of acronyms all around us, you might find DGAF really amusing/handy. DGAF as in “I DGAF about KIMYE, but a veil at your 17th wedding?” DGAF came across my email on a day when I saw OK (as well as o.k., okay and, annoyingly, k – because a two letter word is just too much to type) used as a superlative, an acceptance, and an indicator of a state that is nowhere near bad, horrible or dismal, but also a couple of exits away from ideal, perfect or peachy-keen. Its print presentation echoes the somewhat ambiguous existence. It is a compelling mash-up of O’s eternal rolling-alongness with the kinks and hard stops of K.
OK plays many roles – it’s, at the least, an adverb, adjective, noun, verb, or interjection that can denote compliance or acceptance. As a word, it’s almost as versatile as fuck. One of the few places which frowns on OK is Scrabble, which will not accept it as a two-letter word. In case you’re wondering, Scrabble does not accept the f-bomb as a word, but Words With Friends does. OK is used constantly and at pretty much every stage of life. From the simple OK of acceptance/acknowledgement of a toddler to the approval of something in the business world, “this is ok to send out,” – OK is everywhere.
And everywhere literally means everywhere. The Oxford University Press (are you down with OUP?) calls OK “the world’s most popular word.” The BBC cites it as one of “the most frequently used words in the world.” Most other languages have adopted OK and its positive vibe into their cultural lexicon, or oddly enough had phrases with O and K already denoting some form of positive message. This immersion is aided by the sounds of the two letters being found, in some form, in most languages. Examples to the right.
OK came from the acronym trend of the 1830s, according to both Wikipedia and the OED. (Yeah, sorry Millenials, not even that is original to you. But, keep on trying . . .) The fad was a tangent of publications phonetically mimicking dialectic speech in print. Oll Korrect for All Correct became OK, thanks to The Boston Morning Post in 1839. A rivalry between papers and journalists kept OK going long enough for it to penetrate the public consciousness, while its would-be siblings in acronym-hood – O.F.M (Our First Men), A.R. (All Right) K.Y. (Know Yuse) and W.O.O.F.C (With One of Our First Citizens) – withered before the 1840s.
Two US presidents in two different centuries helped propagate OK in our language. Martin Van Buren, nicknamed Old Kinderhook, had an 1840 campaign slogan of “Old Kinderhook is O.K.” Sixty years later, Woodrow Wilson marked Okeh on papers he approved. In the technology age, Microsoft furthered OK’s cause. The majority of its programs, across language editions, use OK to show a completed function. (Try and count how many times today you click on the word “OK”) As the Language Monitor points out, “the successful completion of a server response on the World Wide Web (of which there are billions every second) is defined as OK.”
OK’s positive message is tempered by its less than perfect side – it is a contraction and contradiction, that is perfect when you don’t feel like committing or learning anything more. The word is 175 years old, and the only place it doesn’t have a foothold is in formal speech and speeches, printed works, Scrabble and the Bible.
Its ambiguity and fluidity are all part of the appeal of OK. Now, if we could only figure out a way to use Know Yuse. But I think the acronmyn/abbreviation version is ruled out.
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