This edition of the Liga Weekly is dedicated to one of the most-used words in the English language: “o.k.” Depending on inflection and context, it can have a number of different meanings or connotations. These shades of meaning can be lost when communicating across languages, but the general meaning of the word “o.k.” is almost universally understood; in fact, it has been assimilated as a “loan word” in a number of languages.
The word itself is not that old, but its exact origin is a matter of some debate. We will touch on two of the prevailing theories in this post, as part of an introduction to the new graphic for the 2011 Liga Guadalupe team, Elvis Ate America.
Oh, and also the numbers for the FAABulous prize$ for week 11.
Let’s start with the summary from wikipedia, ok?
“Okay” (also spelled “OK,” “O.K.”) is a colloquial English word denoting approval, acceptance, agreement, assent, or acknowledgment. “Okay” has frequently turned up as a loanword in many other languages. As an adjective, “okay” means “adequate,” “acceptable” (“this is okay to send out”), “mediocre” often in contrast to “good” (“the food was okay”); it also functions as an adverb in this sense. As an interjection, it can denote compliance (“Okay, I will do that”), or agreement (“Okay, that’s good”). As a verb and noun it means “assent” (“The boss okayed the purchase,” and, “The boss gave his okay to the purchase.”) It can also be used with appropriate voice tone—such as sarcasm or a questioning tone—to show doubt or to seek confirmation, assent and approval (“Okaay..?” or “Is that okay?”).
Etymologists differ on the issue, but most subscribe to one of two possible origins for the word “o.k.”: (1) Bostonian street-slang or (2) President Martin Van Buren. We’ll look at both.
cockney rhyming slang
The prevailing theory regarding the etymology of the word “o.k.” provides me an opportunity to discuss one of my favourite subjects: cockney rhyming slang. The actual connection between cockney and the origin of “o.k.” is more-or-less non-existent, but I’m forcing it in here because I would like to reuse my clever diagram from a May 18, 2010 post zoo world 3: pulchritudinous pandas, pt. 2 (cont.). If you have nothing better to do, I highly recommend reading that post, as I believe it to be some of the most fantastic drivel to ever [dis]grace the blogosphere.
I am also happy to debut my St. Mary-le-Bow graphic, one of the final fruits borne by the late Isildur, my now-defunct laptop that served me faithfully for eight long years. I was working on my pandamania series when Isildur gave up the ghost, and it was some time before I was able to afford a new laptop. The St. Mary-le-Bow graphic at right was intended for a post discussing John Milton, Paradise Lost, and the long-s. I was able to salvage enough working material from Isildur to write a post on John Milton and the long-s, but never got around to talking about the definitive cockney cathedral. Then fantasy football was upon us, and I have yet to wrap up that pandamania series. Perhaps someday I will, but, for now, I am glad to be able to make some use of my St. Mary-le-Bow graphic.
Wikipedia provides an insightful discussion on the traditional definition for the Cockney Londoner, one that is inherently problematic when strictly applied. There’s more in the wikipedia article, but this tid-bit should be enough for our purposes here:
The region in which “Cockneys” are thought to reside is not clearly defined. A common view is that in order to be a Cockney, one must have been born within earshot of the Bow Bells. However, the church of St Mary-le-Bow was destroyed in 1666 by the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. After the bells were destroyed again in 1941 in The Blitz of World War II, and before they were replaced in 1961, there was a period when by this definition no ‘Bow-bell’ Cockneys could be born. The use of such a literal definition produces other problems, since the area around the church is no longer residential and the noise of the area makes it unlikely that many people would be born within earshot of the bells anymore, although Guy’s Hospital and St Thomas’ hospital are both within the defined area covered by the sound of the Bow Bells, suggesting a reasonable number of South London Cockneys continue to be born within the sound of the bells. The closest maternity unit was the East London Maternity Hospital in Stepney which was 2.5 miles from St Mary-le-Bow and was in use from 1884 to 1968.
Regarding the word “o.k.”, our city of interest is Boston, not London. The Bostonian slang fad of the late 1830’s, however, was the same sort of exclusive communication that is at the heart of cockney rhyming slang. I say exclusive because a listener unfamiliar with the omitted words cannot really interpret the slang. Cockney links a word to a rhyming phrase, then uses that phrase as a substitute for the original word—but truncates the phrase so that the rhyming part is left out. Here’s an example appropriate to the discussion of topless live shows.
[Oh: that last sentence makes sense in the context of my zoo world 3: pulchritudinous pandas, pt. 2 (cont.) post. I left it in here to up the t-factor in hope that you might check out that post to see what you’re missing.]
|omitting the rhyming word:|
|titty (•)||=||(•) bristol city|
|and in the plural:|
|titties (•)(•)||=||(•)(•) bristols|
|“She’s got lovely bristols!”|
I was delighted to find that the wikipedia article on rhyming slang described the process almost exactly as I had when I wrote about cockney for the zw3 pt 2 post. It turns out there is also an obscure word for the process of omitting the secondary rhyming word (“hemiteleia”), although a google search for hemiteleia suggests that “obscure” is a very generous designation for the term.
The construction involves replacing a common word with a rhyming phrase of two or three words and then, in almost all cases, omitting the secondary rhyming word, in a process called hemiteleia, making the origin and meaning of the phrase elusive to listeners not in the know.
I will surely write more about cockney in the future, but the important connection here is that last part of the wikipedia description, “making the origin and meaning of the phrase elusive to listeners not in the know.” The process is different, but the character the same, when we turn our attention to the Bostonian abbreviated slang fad of the late 1830s.
Perhaps the most comprehensive discussion of the etymology of “o.k.” comes from the work of Allen Walker Read, who wrote a good deal about both of the theories I’m discussing here in this post. Without intending to, he might have bolstered the credibility of the theory that “O.K.” was an abbreviation of “Oll Korrect”, which was itself a deliberate misspelling of “all correct”. Other examples from the time include “K.Y.”
a lubricant for “Know Yuse” (“no use”) and “N.C.” for “Nuff Ced” (“enough said”).
I don’t think Read talks about cockney, but surely you, good reader, see why this slang technique reminded me of the hemiteleic hooligans of London’s east side. Cockney uses the rhyme, which is easy enough to understand, but then omits the rhyming word. You have to know the rhyming word to connect the cockney slang with the original word. The slang Read talks about uses the abbreviation, which is easy enough to understand, but it’s an abbreviation of a misspelling. You have to know the misspelling to connect “O.K.” to “Oll Korrect” to “All Correct.”
Undoubtedly, some folks used “O.K.” as an abbreviation for “Oll Korrect,” in the late 1830s. Read shows that in his research. It is a matter of debate, however, as to whether this usage is the true origin of the word “o.k.” as we use it today. Certainly some of the appeal lies in the inherent irony: if “o.k” means “all correct” but is an abbreviation derived from a spelling that is all incorrect. Allen Walker Read, however, believes that the true origin of “o.k.” as we use it today is Martin Van Buren.
I think wikipedia does a pretty good job of explaining Read’s somewhat nuanced defense of the “Old Kinderhook” theory:
Read’s series of papers offered an interesting and memorable discussion of “Oll Korrect,” but the purpose of those papers was to support his New York City based “Old Kinderhook” etymology referring to Martin Van Buren’s residence in Kinderhook, New York. Read had formulated that etymology about twenty years earlier, but it had come under fire.
Van Buren was not by any means known as “Old Kinderhook” in general usage, and Read offered only two instances of the use of “O.K.” that mentioned “Old Kinderhook.” One was an 1840 ad for a breast pin celebrating Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. The other was a facetious use as part of a gag to take a swipe at the Whigs; indeed, to take the use of the abbreviations in that gag seriously is to miss the whole point. Many linguists, including the editors of The Dictionary of American English and the Oxford English Dictionary found these uses no more significant than any of other uses of “O.K.” over the previous year and a half. They considered its use in the lapel pin ad an “afterthought” dropped into an ad that was essentially a celebration of Jackson and the frontier associations of the expression.
Read countered, however, that the ad made it evident “that the expression was strange and new at that time,” that the earlier uses of “O.K.” in Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, New Orleans, New York, etc. – including the humorous uses of “Oll Korrect” – were “not the real thing, but anticipative of the real thing.” He said that, regardless of the surface meaning of those earlier uses, their true, although secret and cabalist reference, was to Van Buren’s residence, and that “Old Kinderhook” established the trajectory of “O.K.” as it “rocketed across the American linguistic sky.”
Read’s etymology gained immediate acceptance, and is offered without reservation in most dictionaries. Modern dictionaries almost invariably offer an etymology that credits the historical use of “Oll Korrect”, and some also discuss the apparent wider popularization of “O.K.” as a product of the nearly contemporaneous “Old Kinderhook” usage.
Wow. I could write an entire post about Allen Walker Read’s quotes here. So articulate. So poetic. So beyond anything anyone really cares about. The man’s words epitomize fantastic drivel: “things you didn’t care you didn’t know.”
the van buren boys
“The Van Buren Boys” is the 148th episode of the sitcom Seinfeld, and, strangely enough, the 14th episode for the 8th season. But 148 isn’t the important number here; it’s eight. In the episode, Kramer has a run-in with a New York street gang called “The Van Buren Boys.” Here’s the interaction from seinfeldscripts.com:
KRAMER: Alright, so there I am at Lorenzo’s – loading up my slice of the fixin’s bar.. garlic, (imitates the shaking of garlic onto a pizza) and what-not.. mmm, mmm.. and I see this guy over at the pizza boxes giving me the stink-eye. (Imitates the ‘stink-eye’) So I give him the crook-eye back, (Imitates the ‘crook-eye’) you know.. Then, I notice that he’s not alone! I’m taking on the entire Van Buren Boys!
JERRY: The Van Buren Boys? There’s a street gang named after President Martin Van Buren?
KRAMER: Oh yeah, and they’re just as mean as he was! So, I make a move to the door, you know, (makes a noise) they block it! So, I lunged for the bathroom. (demonstrates) I grab the knob – Occupado! Then they back me up agains the cartoon map of Italy, and all of the sudden, they just stop.
ELAINE: What? What happened?
KRAMER: Because I’m still holding the garlic shaker.. Yeah.. like this (grabs Jerry’s peper shaker, and demonstrates) I’m only showing eight fingers.
JERRY: Well, what does that mean?
KRAMER: That’s their secret sign! See, Van Buren, he was the eighth President.. (Holds up 8 fingers) They thought I was a former Van B. Boy!
So, in case you were wondering, the Van Buren Boys are not a real street gang. At least, they weren’t real when that Seinfeld episode aired. There might very well be a Van Buren Boys gang these days, but they’re probably the type of gang that gets together to compare notes on their latest Seinfeld transcripts for submission to seinfeldscripts.com. I doubt they roam the streets of New York flashing their gang sign and roughing up guys who give them the crook-eye.
Here’s where it gets weird, though: the Van Buren Boys gang sign includes the “ok sign” (pictured at right). In Kramer’s story, he accidentally flashes the Van B. Boys’ gang sign because he is holding the garlic shaker between his thumb and forefinger. It’s just a clever way of holding up eight fingers by accident. Now that you know a bit more about the prevailing theories regarding the origin of the word “o.k.”, however, you can see how incredibly appropriate it is to find the “ok sign” as part of a gang sign for a gang named after President Martin Van Buren, Old Kinderhook himself!
If I was a bit more like Allen Walker Read, I might brush aside objections of “coincidence” and argue that when the writers of Seinfeld dreamed up the Van Buren Boys’ gang sign, their true, although secret and cabalist reference, was to the etymological debate regarding the origin of “o.k.” In this case, however, I’m going to go with a more mainstream view and say it’s just coincidence. But an interesting one!
elvis ate america
The obvious choice for a graphic for “Elvis Ate America” would feature . . . well, Elvis. Or maybe Bono (since he’s the one who did the controversial song “Elvis Ate America.”) I thought about it. In the end, however, there were simply too many possibilities. So I approached the name a bit more abstractly.
Elvis, of course, was known as “the King.” I guess that started as “the King of Rock and Roll” but ultimately was shortened to just “the King.”
“Ate” is the past tense of “to eat”. But “ate” is also a homophone of “eight” (the number).”
In America (or, to be more specific, the U.S.A.), we don’t have kings. At least not politically speaking. The closest thing we have is a president. So, while there was no eighth king of America, there was an eighth president of America. His name was Martin Van Buren; just don’t mess with his namesake street gang, ok?
streakers and money
That first part ran long, so I’ll make this quick, if you’re o.k. with that.
Streaker bonuses follow the Fibonacci sequence: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, … This Fibonacci streaker bonus (F) becomes part of the multiplier and is added to the $11 base amount.
With 4 teams on bye in week 11, the goodbye bonus award (A) is:
4 × ($11 + F)
As always, the weekly reward (R) is $11.
|the pot (total):||($330)|
The Best-of-the-Worst award in Week 11: The Crab Traps (241.11 FP). Gretchen will receive the usual $13 award AND “the pot.” In this case, the pot is $330, so the total award amount is $343.
This leaves two Lucky SOBs: Bullmeisters (231.96 FP) and Albino Rhinos (231.86 FP). Each will receive one lucky dollar.
That’s all, folks.
Good luck to y’all!