March 23, 1839 Fads

The tablet turns out to have been written by a father, 5,000 years ago, bitching about his son. The kid won’t work, he’s disrespectful, and he hangs out with the wrong kind of people. If he isn’t borrowing the chariot, all the kid wants to do is drink wine and lie around the house. These kids today.

Two-thousand years before Romulus and Remus founded the Roman Republic, Nomadic bands of hunters and gatherers established the world’s oldest civilization in the fertile valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. They called the place, “Sumeria”.

download (25)100 years ago, “Sumerologists” labored to learn the customs and the ways of this ancient civilization. One such team pieced together a stone tablet and, through painstaking years of study, managed to decipher the cuneiform words contained thereon.

The tablet turns out to have been written by a father, 5,000 years ago, bitching about his son. The kid won’t work, he’s disrespectful, and he hangs out with the wrong kind of people. If he isn’t borrowing the chariot, all the kid wants to do is drink wine and lie around the house. These kids today.

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Pole sitting was a “Thing”, in the 1920s

The random and silly teenage fad of the era went unrecorded. Dad doesn’t mention if the kid was eating goldfish, sagging his toga or doing a Chinese fire drill around the family horse. That particular silliness would wait for another day, but one thing is certain.  The random enthusiasms peculiar (though not exclusive) to youth, are as old as history itself.

In the 1830s, long before there were Tide PODS®, it was a favorite practice in younger, more educated (and bored) circles to intentionally misspell words, abbreviating them when talking among themselves.  As always, holding the key to the code meant the difference between being one of the “cool kids”, and everyone else. Teenagers today have their own slang, TBH (To Be Honest), based on common terms:  “YOLO” (You Only Live Once), “BFF”, (Best Friends Forever), and watch out for “9–Short” – that means A parent is watching!

images (37)The in-crowd of the 1830s had a vocabulary all their own.  On March 23, 1839, the initials “O.K.” were first published in The Boston Morning Post. This particular term stood for “Orl Korrekt.”  All correct.  Other popular slang of the era included “KY” for “No use” (“Know Yuse”), “KG” for “No Go” (“Know Go”), and “OW” for all right (“Oll Wright”).

The expression got a boost in the Presidential election of 1840, during the re-election campaign of Democrat Martin van Buren, also known as “Old Kindherhook”, after the village of his birth.

The others dropped from use, probably around the time that parents figured them out, but OK made its way into the speech of ordinary Americans. I found myself texting it, just the other day.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere, IMHO, for the parent trying to keep their kid from doing a “Cinnamon Challenge”.  And for the kid who thinks that she/he is the first in all recorded history, to ever (fill in the blank). LOL.

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“Streaker”, University of Missouri, 1973. I do so hope that dog got himself a “piece”.
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Author: Cape Cod Curmudgeon

I'm not a "Historian". I'm a husband, a father, a son and a grandfather. A history geek and sometimes curmudgeon, who still likes to learn new things. Five years ago, I began writing a "Today in History" story, as sort of a self-guided history course.  At some point, I committed to myself to write 365.  The leap year changed that to 366 though, at this point, I think I’m closer to 500. I make every effort to get my facts straight, but I'm as good at being wrong as the next guy. I offer these "Today in History" stories, in hopes that you'll enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Rick Long

3 thoughts on “March 23, 1839 Fads”

    1. I’ve always loved these historical “Easter Eggs”. They bring history to life, compared with mere timelines and sepia-toned photographs. You’re right about that POW story, I enjoyed it very much. The experience of former enemies in US custody in time of war would be an engaging topic for “Today in History”. Thank you for the suggestion.

      Liked by 1 person

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