Quiet Desperation

Okay, okay, there’s no two ways about it


I had writer’s block. I had no original ideas. I knew if the block lingered, I would revert, and harangue about the injustices being, like, done, like, to, like, the English language.

So I went to Jennifer and said, “Help me, please. Give me an idea, a topic, a subject, a theme,” and you know what she said?

She said, “Okay.”

I looked at those luminous periwinkles of hers and said, “Thank you, thank you.”

If you have ever wondered why we say “okay” — or “OK,” per The Associated Press Stylebook— you have Jennifer to thank.

This one little word — or two letters — is said over and over, all day and all night, to express “assent, agreement, or acceptance.”

Why not “AC” instead, because most of us language historian types agree that “OK” stands for “all correct.”

Well, because language, she is a funny girl.

Have you ever wondered where “shampoo,” “tattoo,” and “barbecue” came from? I’ll save those for my next bout of writer’s block. Okay?

Some think “OK” comes from oblique thinking, and it’s a twist around of “oll korrect,” as an obvious witticism that wasn’t “all correct.”

And that it can be traced to the 19th century.

Right now, right this minute, there are abbreviations and acronyms that might stay with us just as OK has.

For examples; “LOL” and “OMG,” neither of which you will see here, unless they are used facetiously.

That word “facetious” won me a prize.

Long before Turner Classic Movies, there was a Los Angeles television station that showed movies all day, and, unlike Turner, it was not commercial-free.

However, like Turner, there was a host, and he sometimes quizzed viewers.

One day, he asked for words in the English language that have all five vowels in order.

It turns out there are twenty-seven, but most of them (“travertinous”) rarely are used.

I called in “facetious” and won a six-pack of furniture polish.

Did I have furniture? When I was a college student in the 1960s and the 1970s, my furniture was sometimes the floor.

I had cinder blocks and one by sixes for bookshelves. You don’t polish one by sixes.

But I had won, and that’s all that mattered. The host mentioned my name on the air.

“Greg Smith,” he said.

But I didn’t mind. I was okay with it.

Whenever I feel an “OK” coming on, I write “okay” instead.

For one very good reason: “OK” is the accepted abbreviation for “Oklahoma.” And if you have seen the play or the film or simply heard the soundtrack of the Rodgers and Hammerstein project, you know what I mean.

Thoreau said, “Simplify,” and that’s what we do. We have streamlined language — for better or worse. I try not to.

I will never say “app” instead of “application.” It’s true: I am (generally) a word snob.

(Some think “snob” derives from “sine nobilitate,” meaning “without nobility.”)

The enjoyment of words is in words.

Granted, some abbreviations are welcome. Take my alma mater. Please.

If I had to write “University of California at Los Angeles” all the time, my index finger would wear out.

By the way, I am a one-finger typist. Self-taught, because boys didn’t take typing when I was in high school.

I hope you’re okay with all of this.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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