Political Trivia

In 1840 William Henry Harrison ran against Martin Van Buren. In a time without television, campaign slogans and catch phrases were the best weapon in the electoral arsenal. Harrison had been responsible for the slaughter of a few Indians at the 'Battle of Tippecanoe'; but there were so few participants at the battle it might as well have been called 'The Property Dispute of Tippecanoe' instead.

Still, it was a high point of Harrison's career, and he made sure to talk about it wherever he went. By the time of the election, the legend had grown to where people actually believed it was a huge important battle. They associated Tippecanoe with his name, so he and his running mate John Tyler came up with the slogan 'Tippecanoe and Tyler, too'

The market panic of 1837 helped Tyler as well, and he attempted to say that it was Van Buren's fault for the trouble. He referred to him as 'Van Ruin', a slogan that worked really well.

Van Buren was another matter. He was trying to convince everyone that there were no national problems. That all everyone needed to do was stay on track and things would get better. To that effect, he chose a slogan that reflected his home town values...'Old Kinderhook', after Kinderhook, New York where he had been born. Of course, 'Old Kinderhook' was a lot to put on a button or ribbon for someone to read, so they shortened it to 'O.K.'

Which is where the saying comes from. 'O.K.' is a way of saying everything is alright. Just keep doing what you're doing. But I remember when I was working in customer service one year and a woman who I was speaking with was helping another customer speaking her native tongue of Italian, and I heard her say 'O.K.' I asked her if they use 'O.K.' in Italian and she said they did.

In fact, I've since come to learn that so many languages have adopted the use of 'O.K.' that you can use 'O.K.' to say 'yes' in almost any language and be understood. The Germans use it, the Italians use it, the Japanese use's become universal.

Which is really strange because so few Americans even remember what Old Kinderhook means.

As another odd side-note, Harrison chose to give an extremely long innaguration speech and because of his exposure to the bad weather, took ill and died just 30 days, 12 hours and 32 minutes into his presidency. The shortest presidency in U.S. History.

And almost nobody remembers him. Or his stupid little battle, or his successor, Tyler. But everyone around the world uses the term 'O.K.'

Guess you never know how things will turn out in the end.

Uploaded 12/22/2008
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