… “The average American says the word OK seven times a day.”
OK is a relatively young word when one compares it to the span of time.
So, where’d it come from?
During the presidential campaign of 1840, Martin Van Buren was running for re-election and was opposed by William Henry Harrison.
Van Buren, a little remembered President was fighting for his political life in the battle. His rise to power from Kinderhook in New York State was epic and there are many lessons to be learned from his technique, style, and practices. Many of the political practices we use today came from Van Buren’s New York machine.
He created a regency in NY, unseated powerful men along the way, and landed in the White House as Andrew Jackson’s anointed successor.
The parallels to current stories are compelling, and his biography in the American President Series is a “can’t putter downer.”
Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re yawning. But I love this stuff.
Anyway, his opponent, William Henry Harrison was touted as living in a log cabin, being a country boy, drinking hard cider, a real man’s man and a man of the people.
Harrison born on a Plantation along the James River called Berkley, was the son of a slave holder, and a descendent of the first families of Virginia. He was also a military hero in the vein of Jackson even if his politics were the polar opposite.
He was no country boy.
Van Buren on the other hand, born in a tavern to a working class and often broke family, clawed his way UP to the top of the political podium, and saw his fortunes fall with the panic of 1837.
Imagine politicians being deceitful in self-representation!!
Well I Nevah!
There is a list a mile long of where the term OK possibly came from, but the most accepted one tells us it comes from the time of President Van Buren’s second campaign.
Seems the folks in Boston started using it as a substitute for the slang term oll korrect.
The fad took off in Bean Town around the summer of 1838 where abbreviations were coming into vogue.
NG was no go, GT was gone to Texas, and SP was small potatoes…
..and OK stood in for oll correct.
While William Henry Harrison’s campaign slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” stirred the masses and reminded them that Harrison was a great military man and Indian fighter, and referenced his victory over Tecumseh at Tippecanoe, it also reminded them that Van Buren was a politician from the start and never donned a uniform.
Van Buren’s campaign slogan “Independent Treasury and Liberty,” while full of good ideas, didn’t ring anyone’s bell, so his supporters started telling folks things were “OK with Old Kinderhook” since Van Buren was from Kinderhook, NY.
Things were not OK.
Van Buren raked in 60 electoral votes, Harrison 234.
BTW, the election of 1840 was the first time campaign slogans were used in American politics. Slogans of course have become altogether OK!