‘Okay’ has become an international word, but no one seems to know where it comes from. The word seems to have had its origin in an English language speech community. From there, everyone who now speaks English says this word a lot.
Not so long ago, it occurred to me that ‘okay’ has a suspicious similarity to the syllable òc which has been associated with the English word ‘yes’.
Òc is associated with the language group of southern France, into Spain and into Italy — Occitan. The region where Occitan has been spoken is Occitania. The Romance language of the south of France was a rival of the speech in the north of France.
The Romance language group that has become France’s national language is called Langues d’oïl (lahng do ee[l]). Oïl is an older way to say ‘yes’ (oui) in the northern part of France. The southern speech of Occitania has been called Languedoc, the language of òc.
From here it’s a jump and a skip to see sailors and merchants in the Mediterranean region exclaiming “oc” when things were okay. The next jump and skip takes the the word ‘oc’ into the English speaking world.
From ‘oc’ to ‘okay’ is no leap, and I don’t see a leap from ‘okay’ to the abbreviation ‘OK’.
Who says okay and who doesn’t
In my casual contact with other speech communities (through television and films), I can share with you that ‘okay’ is now part of the regular speech in several languages. My limited list is: Swedish and German.
On the other hand, I’ve never heard ‘okay’ in French speech, Spanish (both in Europe and the Americas), and Hebrew. Instead one hears d’accord or bon, bueno, and b’seder, respectively.
Once Yiddish came into the English speaking world, Jews have peppered their speech with ‘okay’. Still, it’s preferable to say fein (fine), especially among Yiddish speakers who may not speak English. In Israel, for example, Yiddish speakers rarely speak English.
that’s OK for now.