Why do we say 'OK'? It started as an inside joke but blew up when it hit the mainstream.

How a cheesy joke from the 1830s became the most widely spoken word in the world.

A happy woman gives a huge OK sign.

You may be surprised to learn that the universally recognized term for neutral affirmation, "OK," has humble linguistic roots. It all started as a cheesy inside joke amongst Boston hipsters. Back in the 1830s, it was cool among Boston’s intellectual class to intentionally misspell abbreviations. They coined "KC" for "’knuff ced," "OW" for "oll wright," "KY" for "know yuse," and “OK” for "oll korrect."

The abbreviations are similar to Cockney rhyming slang, a form of wordplay where phrases are substituted with rhyming words. For example, a phone is known as the “dog and bone” and stairs are called, “apple and pears.”

"OK" found a mainstream audience after it was first used in an article published in the Boston Morning Post on March 23, 1839. Soon after, the tongue-in-cheek joke spread to newspapers across the country.

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All images by Rebecca Cohen, used with permission.

Here’s a thought.

This article originally appeared on October 19, 2016

Self proclaimed feminist killjoy Rebecca Cohen is a cartoonist based in Berkeley, California.

Here’s what she has to say about her role as an artist taken from her Patreon page.

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A short and sweet explanation of why certain words have silent letters in them

Why is there a "b" in doubt and a "p" in receipt? The answer might infuriate you.

Rob Words produces language facts and etymology fun.

Ever wonder why we have silent letters randomly nestled into certain words? Think about the “b” in “doubt,” the “p” in “receipt,” the “s” in “isle” … or “aisle” or “island” for that matter. How the heck did those get there?! Sure, the English language is notoriously a hodgepodge of words from different cultures, but usually there’s a reason behind it all. Even if that reason is bonkers.

The good news: There is an answer to this linguistic riddle. The bad news: As etymology enthusiast Rob Words explains in a fascinating video, the answer might infuriate you.

A logical theory would be that once upon a time, these letters were actually pronounced. Rob previously shared how this was the case for the letter “k” when it falls at the beginning of a word … thus ruining Arthur and Ka-nights of the Round Table forever.

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via Pixabay

A father cradling his infant son.

It's almost impossible to be handed a baby and not immediately break into baby talk. In fact, it seems incredibly strange to even consider talking to a baby like one would an adult. Studies have shown that babies prefer baby talk, too.

Researchers from Stanford found that babies prefer to be spoken to in baby talk or “parentese” as scientists refer to the sing-songy cooing we do when talking to infants.

“Often parents are discouraged from using baby talk by well-meaning friends or even health professionals,” Michael Frank, a Stanford psychologist, told Stanford News. “But the evidence suggests that it’s actually a great way to engage with your baby because babies just like it–it tells them, ‘This speech is meant for you!’”

The big question that has eluded scientists is whether parentese is a universal language or varies by culture.

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