Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Dec 5 23:57:09 UTC 2012

On Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 11:37 AM, Dave Wilton wrote:
> The Daily News article seems to simply be relying on the OED, which has the
> 1917 letter as the first citation. The OED entry is from March 2004, so it's
> hardly a new discovery.

Jesse can confirm, but I don't believe that the 1917 cite was in the
Mar. 2004 "OMG" entry. (Despite the helpful "publication history"
info, it's still difficult to determine if/when a new entry has been
subsequently revised.) The first I heard about the cite was in Mar.
2011, when the OED publicized updates for a number of initialisms:

A roundup of some of the reactions here:

> The next citation is an adjectival use of OMG from
> 1982. Making the 1917 use something of an outlier. Although given the
> penchant people have for creating initialisms, it seems plausible that OMG
> was independently coined on numerous occasions, and I wouldn't be surprised
> if earlier (and later) ones showed up.

The comments here are helpful in understanding the 1917 cite as a play
on abbreviations for orders of knighthood:

Note that this is not a use of OMG as an interjection but rather a
suggestion for a new order of knighthood analogous to OBE.
Comment by Alan Shaw — November 28, 2012 @ 2:40 am
Further to Alan’s perceptive correction, it might be worth pointing
out that other orders in the UK have long had humorous alternative
>From the 1980s series, "Yes, Minister"
Bernard Woolley: In the service, CMG stands for Call Me God. And KCMG
for Kindly Call Me God.
Hacker: What does GCMG stand for?
Bernard: God Calls Me God.
Official meanings:
CMG: Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
KCMG: Knight Commander …
GCMG: Grand Cross …
Comment by Mat Morrison — November 28, 2012 @ 10:36 am


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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