If I build it, she will come | Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Aug 13, 2014

“OK” is a global term, used by people around the world who do not understand any other word in English, although it’s not really a word.

Staying away from a long list of origin stories concerning “OK” and its meaning, which we all understand so I won’t explain, from the Choctaw language to a corruption of the Scottish phrase “och aye” to many, many others, the most likely etymology comes from an early 19th-century fad of using acronyms, and particularly using acronyms that were based on misspellings, a lively subject for humor writers of the era.

Therefore, “OK” came to stand for “Oll Korrect,” in this particular viewpoint, and then it was popularized in the presidential election of 1840, as an abbreviation for “Old Kinderhook,” the nickname of incumbent president Martin Van Buren (he lost, for what it’s worth). “Vote for OK” was a pretty easy campaign slogan. We do it all the time anyway.

There’s more to that story, and no consensus on “OK” at any rate, so don’t believe anyone who tells you there is.

Actually, I’d be careful about believing anything you’re told by someone who appears confident in his or her facts, particularly in this age of viral everything, although gullibility is nothing new. As showman P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

No, he really didn’t. In fact, probably no one did, since “sucker” as a synonym for a gullible person wasn’t used in Barnum’s time, but none of this matters. It’s important to be careful.

Such as with AOL, which is an acronym like OK, although more like KFC.

That is, what used to be known as America Online, which 20 years ago reigned as king of the online providers, shortened its name to a Dow Jones-friendly abbreviation and branched out into other areas, mostly trying to rebrand itself as a homepage for people who wanted a quick overview of news and weather when they turned on their computers.

Its old model, as a provider of access to the online world and eventually the World Wide Web, passed away long ago.

Except for certain people. About 2 million of them, apparently, as yet another news report mentioned last week. These people pay AOL around $20 for dial-up Internet access. We can all do that math. It’s a nice chunk of change for nothing.

Why they do this has something to do with Mr. Barnum’s famous non-quote, but probably more just inertia and unawareness of how exactly one finds one’s way onto the Internet.

I’ve tried to explain this to different people, some of them very intelligent, and so I understand a bit.

These are people who pay Comcast or Frontier or Time-Warner or some other company, probably a cable company, a decent amount of money for broadband service, and still they send AOL 20 bucks a month.

Some of them think it’s the price of an email address. I do my best to help.

I get asked for help with computer issues fairly often, in fact, particularly if you factor in my family. I’ve been messing around with the things for nearly 40 years, after all, almost all of that as a user only, but a user counts.

You don’t have to be a mechanic to teach someone how to drive.

All I’m saying is that I have certain skills that can be useful. General computing problems aside, I sometimes get asked to bake something. I’m pretty good at spelling. I can explain, in a general way, what the lab values from your recent physical exam mean, although you should just ask your doctor.

Did I mention I’m a pretty good speller? You never know who’s going to be one.

I just felt the need to bring up the fact that I am competent in certain areas, because last weekend I bought a new desk. I felt I needed a better work space, and this one was on sale. It had a lot of glass and plenty of room for my stuff. It was a pretty desk.

It needed to be put together, though. Assembled. As in, with screws and bolts and nuts and screams.

I make jokes about not being a natural tool user. These are just jokes. I can use tools, although I try to stay away from loud ones that can severe limbs. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but I certainly can.

But give me a million pieces of anything, or even a few dozen, and directions that aren’t written for a third grader, and I run into trouble. Bread dough will let you cut corners and make mistakes. Glass is less forgiving. It will just break.

So what happens, and what happened, is an old story. I open the box. I read the instructions. I spread the parts out on the floor. I match up hole A with screw B. I begin to scream.

An hour or so later, my wife sticks her head in the door. “Need any help?” she asks, and I tell her that I’m doing fine, and then she puts the desk together. This is how it always goes.

So I don’t blame those AOL people, or bad spellers, or people who can’t cook even simple things. We all have our strengths and weakness, and I married my strength as it turned out.

I’m OK, you’re OK. It’s a really nice desk, too.

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