America’s Greatest Word

May 20, 2014 | Words

One of the most frequently used words in the world: OK, often spelled okay, originated in the United States but is now recognized and used by speakers all over the world.

How the two-letter agreement become so popular in less than 200 years is the topic of Allan Matcalf’s book America’s Greatest Word, and he explains some of its appeal and popularity in this article for BBC News: “What OK provided that the others did not was neutrality, a way to affirm or to express agreement without having to offer an opinion… OK allows us to view a situation in the simplest terms, just OK or not.”

Now presidents and other heads of state use it frequently, and in the multilingual workplaces of today’s globalized economy, we can always rely on OK: no matter which language we’re trying to communicate in, it’s one word for which we won’t need a translation.