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The Spike or Victoria College Review 1936

The Origin of "O.K."

page 38

The Origin of "O.K."

Dear Spike,

There have been so many absolutely satisfactory and conclusive explanations of the origin of the term "O.K." that I am afraid your reader will become confused. As he is a decent chap, and always lends me the magazine when he has finished with it, I am going to plug holes in his darkness for him. It happened this way:

The occasion was the celebration of the centenary of Aberdeen. A time of rejoicing and wild abandonment. Cabers, haggi, and saxpences went hurtling through the air. But come awa' wi' me, mon, whaur yon birkie stan's burstin' hisself ower a pibroch. The crowd is dense, ye onnerstan', an' verra tight, callit togither tae see Angus MacKerel, the firrst of the relay runners, receive the streamlined haggis, which will be carried aroun' the wurrld. Ye wonder what this has tae do wi' O.K.? Hauld your whist.

Shortly he arrives at London, where he is to transfer the haggis to Sir Dancelot, who does the next stage. But because the King is not pleased with Aberdeen at the moment, the haggis has to be handed to 'Erbert Nockney, the Lunnoner, for presentation by proxy. So MacKerel throws the haggis into the unwilling hands of Nockney, cheerfully shouts "Och aye" and whirls off to join his friend MacAroney in a cooling gallon just over the border. "Ore Kye" wonders Nockney.

Presently he stands meekly in the presence of the King, Sir Dancelot, and all the other Tights of the Dround Table, all gentlemen, all clad in armour, all made in America. Tin Henrys, they call them. You didn't know Ford made armour before he turned to cars? Shut your mouth. Sir Dancelot's haka can be heard a hundred yards away; his armour, a hundred miles.

"Well," snaps Sir Dancelot, "what did the barbarian say?" Nockney produces a cigarette paper on which he has carefully written the letters, "O.K." "What does it mean?" snarls Sir Dancelot. "I think as 'ow 'e means 'orl korrect' " volunteers Nockney apologetically. "Nonsense!" bites Sir Dancelot, "he meant 'Oh Kwaite.' Can't you spell man?" "I didn't smell anything," says Nockney.

Sir Dancelot dons a bathing suit over his armour, and dives in. In next to no time he is in the court of France with the haggis. Handing it to Monsieur L'Escargot Grenouille, he pronounced the mysterious words, "O.K." "Sacre mille asticots" gasps the Frenchman, "vat zat?" Sir Dancelot winks solemnly, and dives buoyantly into the water backwards.

Grenouille turns pleadingly to the king. "Aux Cayes, what means it?" he pipes. "A term denoting outstanding merit in the pepper line!" "Also denoting any old kind of merit," judges the king gravely. "Use your metonymy." Grenouille nods despairingly, calls his shark and chaise, and sets out over the Atlantic. By holding the haggis in front of the shark's nose he makes record time.

There he meets an American Indian and, bowing profoundly, hands him the haggis. "Aux Cayes" he murmurs. The Indian looks pleased. "Ok e" he says. (You will have gathered that the confounded thing means something in his lingo too. I've forgotten what!) And presently he wanders into Madison Square, n.y., N.Y., U.S.A., with the haggis and the catchword.

Now it happens that the promoters who know how have arranged an all-in wrestling bout between Joe Louis, Musso of Abysinnia (seeking vengeance for Carnera), and Man-mountain-Deane. And they want an expression to describe the match. They've used "majestic." And "collossal." And "gigantic." And others. But none of them satisfy. And so they find they want the expression "O.K." but not the haggis, which they give to the Indian to eat. Also, their relay runner has been "taken for a ride" and not returned. And, because the expression means nothing, it may mean anything. . . .

While, back in Aberdeen, pending the return of the haggis, they are still celebrating their centenary.—"Schaf."