l33t and prior art

“OMG, my BFF is so l33t.”

“ROFLOL.”

There’s a generation that looks at the above and rolls their eyes at this, but as it turns out, this is hardly new; in fact, according to Rick Beyer, author of The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told, we get the phrase “OK” from exactly the same process:

People all over the world know what “O.K.” means. But few of them realize it was born fro a wordplay craze and a presidential election.

In all started in Boston in 1838. People there started using humorous initials, sometimes combined with purposeful misspellings, just for fun.

Gosh, this sounds familiar.

Newspapers picked up the fad, and writers had a high old time throwing around all sorts of acronyms.

For example:

g.t.d.h.d = “give the devil his due”

n.g. = “no go”

s. p. = “small potatoes”

O. W. = “Oll Wright (all right)”

G. T. = “Gone to Texas”

And there was another expression that started gaining some currency: “Oll Korrect”, or O.K.

So that’s what it’s supposed to mean.

The fad spread quickly to New York, but the phrase “O.K.” didn’t come into national use until the presidential campaign of 1840. Democrats trying to reelect Martin Van Buren were casting around for political slogans. Van Buren was from Kinderhook, New York, and was sometimes called “Old Kinderhook”. O.K. Political operatives seized on the coincidence. Democrats started forming O.K. clubs and staging O.K. balls. The campaign catapulted the expression into national circulation.

Van Buren lost his bid for reelection. But “O.K.” won in a landslide, and is used billions of times a day in all corners of the globe.

l33t. ;-)

(BTW, there’s 99 more of those, and they’re all equally fascinating.)