O.K. or “Oll Korrect” was originally a corny joke amongst Boston intellectuals in 1830s Boston who would intentionally misspell abbreviations.
The Boston Post printed in what is the first known print of the word OK in 1839. Martin Van Buren even adopted the idiom during his 1840 reelection campaign as a nickname. His supporters called him “Old Kinderhook” after the New York town where he was born.
Van Buren lost the election, but OK took off, emerging from slang into practical use thanks to the invention of the telegraph in 1844. It was easier to tap out the word “OK” versus anything else for operators on the railroad to confirm receipt.
Part of the reason OK continued to supplant itself into vernacular in the 20th century was the way in which marketers used the letter “K.” Very few words started with the letter K, so brand strategists modified the C in words like Kraft, Kleenex, Krispy Kreme, and Koolaid to sell products.
Today, OK is universal. Used as an adjective, noun, verb, and adverb, it is most commonly understood as “the ultimate neutral affirmative.” As Alan Metcalf writes in OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, OK does the “affirming without evaluating.” People use the word to convey the acceptance of information and not necessarily its confirmation.
So the word OK started off as awkwardly as it persisted. Yet, there never goes a day where you can avoid the ubiquity of the two-letter word.
There was a moment when marketers thought words didn’t matter, that the future was speaking through images.
But then everybody’s images started looking the same. The Instagram feed looked like a giant pile of sameness where anyone could be a photographer and upload a beautiful picture.
Snapchat then ushered in the video game and all of a sudden, copycats followed. Facebook’s algorithm started to favor video. Instagram introduced Stories and Live. People could share their thoughts without a keyboard.
But if there’s anything Twitter shows us, words matter more than ever. The US president and the ‘rocket man’ tease nuclear war. While images and videos are propaganda, it is words that beget action; they are volatile, easily copy-pasted and bent into echo chambers to paint fraudulent stories of intent.
If we want to awe someone, we choose static and moving images. But if we ‘re going to poke someone, we select text.
Words are game-changers. Not only do they provide context to an empty visual, but they also control the inner-narrative that ultimately influences external decisions. Choose them with care.
Culture is a broad term used to describe the habits and practices of society. Cultures differ because people differ–in looks, tastes, and religion–and when there’s a hodgepodge of cultures, they mix to create something novel, i.e. America, which then becomes its own cultural pillar.
As broad as culture is, in say music with its infinite number of genres and subgenres, it can also be limiting. For instance, the three most popular operating systems smartphones run on are iOS, Android, and Microsoft. Given the scarcity of choice, people choose sides, resulting in Apple fans, Google geeks, and Microsoft traditionalists.
But even when there’s a variety of choice, a favorite always wins out. Whether it’s a preferred operating system, musician, film, or shoe style, some cultures become mainstream. If you copy such trends, you are the benefactor of the wisdom of crowds. If you’re an early adopter or renegade, you look for things on the edges which are a plausible reaction to the herd mentality.
Given culture’s categorizations, people always conform to a certain type regardless of how big or small a niche. Culture’s resistance to sameness guarantees the durability of uniqueness, and there may be no better modern-day American dissenter than Mark Grief who appears to be against everything.
There are three reasons to like an Instagram picture:
It’s a good shot.
The caption copy is strong.
It comes from a personal friend or loved one.
In other words, we don’t always asses an image based on its looks. Sometimes just the copy is strong enough.
Words give pictures more context. They can reveal more information about the photo’s location and situation.
Sometimes the copy has nothing to do with the image. People like the image based on sarcasm or stupidity.
One of the reasons people prefer to view images or videos is because the latter reveal too much. Videos preempt the imagination and obviate the need for applied text. It’s the same reason people prefer to watch the movie rather than reading the book.
Words augment pictures, giving them more life. A simple and smart caption is as important as the shot itself.