Friday, March 13, 2015

Okay, Houston…We Have a Problem

I have no illusions about the range of my working vocabulary. It’s limited. Not unlike my grammar and punctuation skills. I’m working on both by reading a lot more. Since my time is limited, I try to stick with books that provide inspiration and good examples. It’s proven helpful many times over.

So, I thought I was making progress.

You can’t imagine my shock when I did a general search through my manuscript for “okay.”

I started the search because the editor, Jane VanVooren Rodgers, I hired for the first 40 pages suggested I use OK instead of okay. It saves space, so it’s logical. But, I thought, it might prove confusing at some point because Olof Krans signed his paintings with a stylized “OK.”

I began the search thinking there would be just a few instances which would require my attention. Was I ever wrong.

Okay is a colloquial term I use in dialog. And apparently I use it a lot.

I was writing down page numbers as I did my search and grew a little alarmed after filling up a couple lines on my notepad.

After filling in a few more lines, I started to laugh.

After several more lines were filled with page numbers, I was resigned to the onerous task of exorcising this blight of “okays.” It seems I’ve let them become invisible and therefore prolific. Forty-nine in all. Way too much.

The OED has a little section on the history of OK that goes something like this:

OK first recorded in the mid 19th century as an exclamation. It became widely used during the presidential re-election campaign of Martin Van Buren in 1840. Van Buren was born in Kinderhook, NY and had the nickname “Old Kinderhook” thus OK.

I guess you’d have to have been there.

How to deal with problem words:

·        Substitute? Yes. Time to open up the thesaurus.
·        Eliminate through thoughtful pruning? Also yes.

Okay, now I’m going to get busy with paring down my dependence on this little expression. Okay?


  1. It has been brought to my attention that the real and accurate quote from Apollo 13, commanded by James Lovell, was "Houston, we HAD a problem." It seems the verb was been changed by popular demand. That's what I remembered and I didn't look it up to verify the accuracy. The "okay" part of the title was a play on the word and used to reflect the object of my blog post. Sorry if I confused anyone. Mary

  2. Okay...I've looked it up and it is "Houston, we've had a problem." There. I can't get it any better.