“This has been a hard year for us as adults, but it has been hard for our kids as well. We need to check in with them often and ask them if they are OK.”

There is a two letter word that is probably the most recognizable word on the planet. You will find it used in a majority of countries and cultures. It is the word “OK.” But how did it become so widespread, what does it actually mean, and where did it originally come from?

It traces its roots back to Boston in the 1830’s when for a few short years it was a fad to misuse abbreviations. There were a number of them with one of them being “OK” which stood for “oll correct.” It became popular slang for a little while and probably would have died out if it weren’t for a specific invention that showed up in the 1840’s. That invention was the telegraph that made it possible to communicate over long distances with Morse code which was made up of dots and dashes. OK became a word used often by telegraph operators as it was a very short way to confirm if something was correct.

It might have still died out and disappeared but in the early 1900’s advertisers and companies started using the letter “K” in lots of advertising and product names. We still do it today and see it with things like Krispy Kreme, Kleenex, and Kool Aid. The “K” makes it memorable and so the word “OK” is visually memorable as well.

So why the history lesson about the word OK? Well, I think it is a word we should be using with our kids during this pandemic. This has been a hard year for us as adults, but it has been hard for our kids as well. We need to check in with them often and ask them if they are “OK.” They might not give you a completely honest answer to begin with, but keep asking. We need to connect with them. We need to ask them to evaluate the “correctness” of things in their lives. Ultimately, they just need us to ask them, and they need to know that world will someday get back to the point of being “OK.”

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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