What To Do If You Are Not OK

My sister on the phone yesterday: “I literally cannot name a single person right now who is doing OK.”

Sophie Lucido Johnson
5 min readOct 22, 2023

Once again, everything is not OK.

(As an aside: my sister asked several months ago, “What do you mean when you say ‘OK’?” And I felt like it was one of those things where you know when you know, but also a valid question. Nevertheless, my impulse when someone asks for a definition is to Google it, and I went down a rabbit hole about the origins of the word “OK.” What’s annoying is that there’s not really a clear consensus; the Smithsonian likes the idea that “OK” was a satirical newspaper joke that went viral in 1839, which, fine. If that was true, it would have originated because someone was making fun of someone else for abbreviating other things — sort like BRB — but they wouldn’t have been doing BRB back then. The only period-appropriate abbreviation listed in the Smithsonian article is “OW” for “Oll Wright,” as in, “All Right.” So, basically, maybe, “OK” is a viral joke from old New England. I wanted the answer to lead me somewhere that would help me understand myself, and all of us, but all it helps me understand is that it’s so hard to know what makes language catch on. I’m getting better at saying “it’s giving,” by the way.)

All illustrations and photos are by the author, who is me, Sophie Lucido Johnson.