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Front Porch: Enjoy OK Day with chips and dip and cuddly kittens
Thu., March 23, 2023
From time to time I’ll look up a date just to see if anything interesting happened on that day in history.
I do this because I’m almost always able to find something to smile about, which is usually the point of the exercise, and sometimes I encounter fun and weird things I can share with friends. And sometimes, I write a column about what I’ve found. Like today.
Today literally. The subject matter of today’s Front Porch column is today, March 23. Why not?
Did you know that March 23 is National Chip and Dip Day? What’s not to like about that? Not officially documented, but believed to be so, the American potato chip (not to be confused with the British “crisp”) became a thing in 1883 in Saratoga Springs, New York. There’s a Sarasota Chips brand still on the market today, I’ve read.
The combo has grown so popular that it’s estimated more than 1.2 billion pounds of potato chips are eaten annually. Although hummuslike recipes date back to the 13th century, the naked chip did not partner up regularly with globs of guacamole, salsa or any assortment of other wet and/or gooey sidekicks until the 1950s – reaching their zenith annually on Super Bowl day, when sales go up 16-36% .
Like with so many other “national days” that are recognized on assorted calendars and online, how a particular date is chosen to honor a particular thing is somewhat fuzzy.
But not with National Near Miss Day. On March 23, 1989, an asteroid the size of a mountain came within 500,000 miles (close, by universe measure) of Earth, which was considered a near miss. Had the asteroid, named Asclepius, hit the surface of our planet, it would have released energy comparable to a 600 megaton bomb, which would have been an apocalypse.
An interesting side note, not officially recognized as such but definitely worthy of connection, is that March 23 is also World Meteorological Day. On March 23, 1950, an international organization that exchanged weather information worldwide officially became the World Meteorological Organization. On March 23, 1961, the WMO gained recognition, and the first World Meteorological Day was observed.
I should pause here to not e that when looking up a specific day, there are all sorts of not-so-happy things listed as well. So let’s get a few of those out of the way for March 23, a day on which in 1919 Benito Mussolini founded his fascist political movement in Italy, in 1933 Germany’s Reichstag passed an enabling act elevating Adolph Hitler to chancellor, and in 2022 former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright died.
Of course, there are numerous births and other political and historical happenings on this date in history, many of them quite nice. On this date in 2010, the Affordable Care Act became law.
But back to the frivolous, not-so-important-but-ever-so-much-fun other things to know about today.
“Harry Potter” fans might be gladdened to know that March 23 is Ravenclaw Pride Day, celebrating everything about this house at Hogwarts. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of material about this online, such as the fact that author J.K. Rowling sorted late-night TV host Stephen Colbert into Ravenclaw (where occupants are said to be endowed with cleverness, wisdom, wit, intellectual ability and creativity).
As a reward for a word nerd such as myself, my deep dive into March 23 revealed that it is OK Day, what is described as a global event (yes, global!) celebrating “the worth of this evergreen noun/verb/adjective/adverb/interjection … that transcended the language barrier a long time ago.” It’s used in languages around the globe.
It appears the word first appeared in print when in 1839 a Boston Morning Post editor created a funny misspelling of “all correct” – “oll korrect” – as a satirical jab, and suddenly the abbreviated OK became part of the lexicon.
There are other stories for how the word came to be, but this is the prevailing one, probably because in the 1960s American etymologist Allen Walker Read researched origins of the word, and that’s what he concluded. But the debate still continues. It warms my wordie little heart that this is still being debated.
And to that point, personally, I’d like to see more discussion on the spelling of the word. I’ve always favored “okay,” because that’s how the word sounds when spoken aloud. “OK” looks like it should be pronounced “oak.” As often as I try to slip my favored spelling into my written text, my editor always corrects it. Darn her sharp eye.
It was the late forensic linguist Allen Metcalf’s (author of “OK: the Improbable Story of America’s Favorite Word”) who in 2011 declared March 23 as the first OK Day – “162 years to the day since those two little letters were printed together in the Boston Morning Post.”
And finally, this whimsical journey through March 23 in history ends appropriately with a true warm and fuzzy celebratory event – Cuddly Kitten Day. There’s all sorts of history about the popularity of cats online and how this day recognizes them in their kittenhood.
Fun cat facts: The cartoon cat “Garfield” held the record as the most widely distributed comic strip, the first cat café opened in Taipei in 1998 and the sour-faced real-life Tardar Sauce (aka Grumpy Cat, my personal favorite) became the face of a zillion internet memes in 2012.
I hope you can sit outside on this early spring day, cuddling the tiny feline in your life and soaking up all the goodness and warmth that comes from the experience – while perhaps enjoying clam dip and potato chips and occasionally glancing a wary eye skyward from time to time lest an errant meteor approach unnoticed.
That would be a perfectly okay (and editor approved) way to spend the day.
Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at email@example.com