The Ford employee who could have invented the phrase OK

There have been many attempts to explain how the phrase ‘OK’ entered our everyday vocabulary.

One of the more outlandish revolves around an Irishman who, so the story goes, went to work at the Ford plant in Michigan more than a century ago.

His name was Owen Kelly and, according to folklore, he emigrated to the US from Ireland as a young man and got a job on Henry Ford’s assembly line at a time when the company was gearing up for the launch of the Model T.

Kelly rapidly became a valued employee and was entrusted with the vital task of being the company’s first quality control inspector. Assiduously, painstakingly, missing nothing, he closely examined every Model T that came off the production line, rejecting any with the slightest flaw.

When he was finally satisfied that each product was roadworthy, Kelly chalked his initials on the factory’s running boards.

Read more: Cork's connection to the opening of Ford plant in Dagenham

The cars were selling so quickly that the salesmen would be waiting to drive them away, and it was those salesmen, on looking at the scrawled initials, who first began to say excitedly: “This one is good. This one is OK!”

So, Owen Kelly entered folklore.

Then again, there is a similar story to this but relating to another Ford employee of the age, a German called Oskar Krause.

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