Why O is for Owesome, and OK is Oll Korrect

Hi there folks thanks for liking the page. If you’re wondering where I’m up to, I do have scripts together for the first 4 months, at a podcast a fortnight… and a shortlist of ideas years long. I want to run these weekly, but need to stockpile a bunch of these scripts first.

When will the first podcast be? I have a Blue Yeti mic I bought a few months ago… it seems to hate Windows 10. As an ex lease laptop with Windows 7 costs about the same as the mic, I’m looking to pick one up on my next pay.

Show hosting? Well that’s the next stage. In the meantime I figured I’d start writing a weekly article up here, and drop these back to every other week once the podcasts start. Going on what a toastmasters for dummies site I found online says I’ve been writing the podcasts at around 3,500 words an episode… it’ll be nice to have an off week where I’m just doing a few hundred words on something else.

This week’s topic why O is for awesome and why that may be Ok.

So, New Zealanders will remember in the 1990s we had so many TV game shows, mostly borrowing from American formats. Kiwis may also remember the night -10th October 1992 – when Moana Robinson of New Plymouth swore at the television – no doubt till she was blue in the face. You see, non kiwis, Moana had been picked as an at home contestant on a celebrity episode of Wheel of Fortune. The prizes were great. A 2013 Dominion Post article listed a $4781 porcelain set, and a $36,000 Ford Telstar. Moana was represented by a young Commonwealth games bronze medallist, the boxer David ‘Terminator’ Tua.

David the Terminator aka The Tuaman Tua.

Now I’m the last to criticize anyone’s performance on a game show- my experience on Mastermind was terrifying. You silently pick off all your opponents questions, but when the camera is on you, you do freeze a little…. well I did. David Tua had a shocker though! We might forget where, looking for the word Facelift, he asked to buy a vowel – then asked for P. What we do remember though was when he seemed to ask for an “O for Awesome”. Moana swore, her four kids probably swore, her brother swore -apparently – and at the end of the night all she had was a commemorative pen (I’m not sure if it was a nice pen but as of 2013 Moana still had it). Was Tua O for Awesome after that? A little embarrassed maybe, but it became a part of his story that he embraced. He had a licence plate O4OSUM made for his 1973 mini, though has always stated he said “O for (his friend) Orson”.

But, you see, – and let’s just put aside for a second he asked for a vowel, not a consonant – if David Tua said O for Awesome that is OK, cause we play a little fast and loose with language all the time – just look at the word OK.

In Boston, Massachusetts in 1838, a new fad was taking hold. I’m unsure if it was in response to one of Massachusetts’ greatest sons, Samuel Morse, developing the telegraph in the 1830s and 1840s, but Boston was crazy for abbreviating words at the time. The wealthier citizens of Boston, for example, became OFM, our first men. NG was no go, GT gone to Texas, and if something was no big deal it was SP, small potatoes. There was another trend at the time, ‘comic misspelling’ … well it was the 1830s, Americans had only just gotten their first dictionary of American English in 1828, written by Noah Webster. It had 212 new spellings of English words. If Webster could reinvent the language, why not some barfly in a Boston pub? All right became Oll Wright, abbreviated to OW in Boston.
All correct became OK by the same process… Oll Korrect.

So why do we say OK now, but not OW? That comes down to the man in the third picture, the 8th President of America, Martin Van Buren. Van Buren, who lived in Kinderhook New York, ran in the 1840 election. His campaign slogan was “Vote for OK” standing for Old Kinderhook. It may have also been meant as a sly dig at his opponent, Andrew Jackson, who was really not a man of letters. This embedded OK in the wider public lexis.

Martin ‘Old Kinderhook’ Van Buren

Now OMG has an origin from before the internet too, Admiral Lord John Fisher first used the phrase in an 1917 letter to Winston Churchill; but the practice of abbreviating words, LOL, SMH, BRB, all began in the drinking holes of 1838 Boston.

This blog was originally posted to Tales of History and Imagination’s Facebook page, on 16th January 2019. Edited July 2020. Copyright Simone T Whitlow.

DavidTua #Wheeloffortune #Oisforawesome #Ok #Samuelmorse #MartinVanBuren #History

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