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OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word
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OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word

2.84 of 5 stars 2.84  ·  rating details  ·  86 ratings  ·  23 reviews
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, wh...more
Hardcover, 210 pages
Published November 9th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published October 12th 2010)
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Glenn Harris
If you think it would be really exciting to read the actual story of how "OK" got started (which takes about two pages) followed by two hundred pages of examples of how it's been used since then, this is the book for you. It wasn't the book for me.
Beth Anne

i am a nerd. i am the type of nerd who will buy a book based solely on the word "OK." i love words. and, quite frankly, i love "OK." i do, indeed, use it a lot.

this book, from the first page, had me laughing out loud...and then repeating things i'd learned to everyone and anyone who would listen.

allan metcalf has a way with words...and a way of telling the story of words that just makes you want to keep reading. i love his declaration that OK is America's finest invention, and that OK pr...more
I hope it doesn't sound patronizing or condescending to say this is a great light read before bedtime for language geeks. It has short chapters and pleasant subject matter.

Immediately previous to this book, I read a harrowing war novel before sleeping. I had unpleasant nightmares about war as a result. That's a testimony to the novel's power, I suppose, but sometimes I just want to have a good night's sleep. I didn't have any nightmares about OK while reading this book.

Other reviews here that s...more
I really, really wanted to give this two stars (meaning "it was ok"), but I did like it a bit better than that.

Metcalf, a professor of English, delves into the history of the world's more recognizable "word," dispelling origin myths along the way. After describing the happy meeting of an 1830s fad for initialisms, the 1840 presidential elections and an attempt at journalistic humor, he goes on to describe the many ways this seemingly innocuous word has made an impact on American culture. I like...more
This is a book that should have been a magazine article. Its fun to read, but the basic premise (that "OK" as a word began life as a joke in 1839) can be stated in one chapter (and is). The rest is proof of the claim, examining other origins that the author is convinced (and convincing) are clearly wrong, and discussing its on and off history following its inception.

It also explores the universal use of "OK" around the world, and why it caught on.

It's a fast read, however, and worthwhile for an...more
I might be more in the neighborhood of 4.5 stars with this one, but I thought I'd bring up the average.

In short, I loved it. Great balance between academic integrity (all the primary evidence in the form of quotes made my English teacher heart soar) and accessible style. Like having a fascinating conversation with someone who knows his stuff and loves his subject.

Yes, I skimmed a lot of the longer quotes. They need to be there for Metcalf to support his rather complex argument about how/why OK...more
Although some might strictly go by the title and assume this book isn't exactly the page-turner of the century, I had high hopes for Metcalf's book as I maintain a somewhat fleeting interest in etymology, and the story of the word 'ok' seemed too good to pass up.

To open, Metcalf walks the author through various aspects of the word ok: its true origins, the many variations on spelling, its uses in the English language. He then goes in-depth through some of the incorrect stories of ok's beginnings...more
Check out what I wrote in my blog:

This is the incredible story of a very small; awkward word that made its way to world fame and general use and understanding. The book tells a little bit about the origin of the word (the time it was used for the first time in a little Boston newspaper (March 23th 1839); as a joke of a misspelled oll korrect); and then navigates through all the imaginable examples on how it is used in all the literature and speech not onl...more
This is a detailed study of the expression/word - "OK" from its initial occurrence in 1839 until the present. It is informative in outlining all the ways in which this word is used and its variety of meanings. It is also funny and interesting in showing the odd ways in which words develop and come to be used. There are lots and lots of examples and I learned many factoids that I had not previously known. The limitation, of course, is that even for a book about a word as interesting as OK. As a r...more
It was just too easy to rate OK as ok, although lots of people probably will. There are as many interesting facts as there are not so interesting facts. For example, I'm not sure I needed to know how many times Zora Neale Hurston used "OK" in THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (once for anyone who can't wait to find out). I won't give anything else away, but I did mostly enjoy reading this skinny book. Just curious...why did such an American book get published by a British company?
This little books packs in quite a bit of information, including the birth of OK, a timeline of usage, various false origin stories, literary quotes from the ages, and it's international appeal. I knew the basic story of how it was coined, but this elaborated quite a bit and I would consider it worth your time if you like the history of words.
Indah Threez Lestari
323rd - 2011

OK, in my humble opinion, this book is OK.

Buset dah, perlu satu buku cuman buat ngebahas asal usul kata OK (ini kata atau singkatan atau kata yang berasal dari singkatan?) dan penggunaannya.
Yes, there really is an entire book about the word "OK." And it's more interesting than you might think. If etymology is your thing, and you love the English language and how it is used, you will enjoy this book!
Eric Rickey
May 05, 2012 Eric Rickey marked it as referred-to-for-research
"Metcalf makes you acutely aware of how ubiquitous and vital the word has become."
--Jeremy McCarter, Newsweek

Hmmm... That intrigues me. So does the attitude that goes along with this word.
Jen Johnson
Overall an interesting discussion, but as with many others I agree that this book was too long. I think that from about the halfway point to 75% through could have been removed.
Sondre Nilsen
Although the premise sounds kinda interesting it really falls short after a while. However, I guess if you really want a good introduction to the word OK this book would be okay.
I got most of the way done with book. It was really interesting, just not interesting enough to hold my attention for the whole thing, apparently.
I've read better secret histories. The problem was that the author set it up as a mystery and, in fact, it's quite straight forward
It was OK. I felt that it got bogged down for me in the examples of OK is other works. Perhaps if it were footnotes.
Denise Hartzler
I couldn't get thru this book. I didn't get hooked and it felt like reading a really long essay.
Jorge Ribas
This book should have been a nice magazine article. Plodding and just over-wrought.
Daniel marked it as to-read
Aug 17, 2014
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Jul 28, 2014
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