Monthly Archives: March 2012

It’s Not Just an Abbreviation for Oklahoma


We’re going to look at O.K. today, okay?

This “word” (or, depending on the form used, these initials) came on the scene around 1840. There was something of a fad at the time of using initials to represent words, much like we do today with Internet slang (brb, lol, lmao, etc.). “O.K.” was initialized shorthand for “orl korrect,” which itself was a slang alteration of “all correct.” Aiding the popularity of this shorthanded notation was its use by telegraphers, not unlike those who take shortcuts with the language today when texting – r u going to b there?”

There was also another development around this time that popularized the initials “O.K.” and that was the presidential campaign of Martin Van Buren. Van Buren was from Kinderhook, New York, and had the nickname of “Old Kinderhook.” A group of Democrats formed the “O.K. Club” to promote Van Buren’s reelection, and the use of the slogan/chant “OK!” was instrumental in popularizing these initials to mean what they do currently: all right. Van Buren ultimately lost reelection to William Henry Harrison, who only served in office for one month before his death from pneumonia.

It would be another fifty years before the word would take the form of “okay” in print, and thirty more still before we would see “okey-dokey” in the early 1930s. “A-okay” came on the scene with the space program of the early 1960s, used by astronauts (and picked up by newsmen) to mean “all okay.”

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To the Root of it All

A friend and I dined at a Mexican restaurant recently, and as I hungrily perused the menu (we had just walked his dog all over Mystic) I noticed many entrée descriptions mentioned “carnitas.” Now I’ve heard of enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas and chimichangas, but never carnitas (Mexican menu items are so much fun to pronounce, especially “guacamole” and “chicken chimichanga”). Neither my friend nor I knew what a carnita was, but as a former student of Latin I knew the importance of word roots. Many, many English words are derived from Greek and Latin roots and share a common meaning. I reasoned that “carnita” must have something to do with meat, due to the root “carn” such as we see in the words “carnivore” and “carnal ” (but not carnival or carnation – this method isn’t foolproof!*) I also knew that the ending “-ita” or “-ito” usually means small, as in “burrito. ” Indeed, we discovered from our waiter that carnitas – “little meats” – are basically shredded pork.

I had the Chicken Tijuana.

*Actually, these two seemingly unrelated words do share the “carn/meat” root if you dig deep enough, but they have lost some of that meaning over the years. “Carnival” means the putting away of flesh (food), originally a reference to Ash Wednesday, and “carnation” refers to the deep red or pink (flesh) color of the flower.

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Suffering Together

Why is it when someone dies, we offer our condolences, in plural? Can’t we just offer our condolence and have that be sufficient? Are we trying to unconsciously make it sound better by making it plural? If so, then why do we offer our sympathy, and not our sympathies? We don’t say, “You have my sympathies!”

I’m not trying to make anyone paranoid about what to say at such a difficult time. It’s hard enough as it is to say anything that adequately expresses our sentiments – mere words seem to fall flat in these situations.

“Condolence” comes from the Latin condole which means to suffer together. As such, it certainly is an appropriate word for expressing grief over a death. As for its employment mostly in the plural form, this seems to simply be a matter of historical usage. Prior to the nineteenth century it was mostly used in the singular. If you’d like to be a trendsetter (or a traditionalist?), it is perfectly legitimate to offer either condolence (in the singular) or even sympathies (in the plural). If nothing else, your sentiment will stand out from the many others the bereaved will receive.

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I got this an in email yesterday and I wanted to share because I found it fascinating. While it is a little off topic, it still concerns words – or, rather, logos. “Logos” is actually Greek for the word “word,” so I think we’re in legitimate territory here. The interesting thing is, many of us never notice the pictorial element in these logos because we are so focused on the words. While I have seen almost all of these logos before, there was only one that I had previously noticed the image in (and understood it) – Amazon, probably because I am such an Amazon junkie.

So check out these logos and see how many pictorial elements you noticed before . . .

There is a white arrow between the E and the x






The second and third "T" are two people holding a chip over a bowl of salsa









The "R" in "tour" is a cyclist, the "u" is his seat and the "O" is the rear wheel











Amazon sells everything from "a" to "z"





There is a sideways kiss between the "K" and the "I"








The pink portion of the "B" and "R" indicates that they sell 31 flavors













The "G" doubles as a smiley face - or vice versa













The interlocking "N" and "W" for Northwest Airlines is also a compass with the needle pointing to the northwest





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