Go to any "ethnic" restaurant in your area and sit within earshot of the kitchen. The staff will typically chat back and forth and/or yell instructions in their native language. It can be Chinese, Thai, Spanish, Indian, Arabic, whatever. Spend some time listening and I guarantee that you will hear the word "okay" interspersed here and there.
The other day, Mike and I went to a nearby Chinese buffet. They have the most fantastic lo mein and garlic green beans, plus I am a sucker for those soft serve machines - I like my vanilla with litchi fruits. Sitting at a table behind us was a Latino couple, speaking Spanish. The husband went up to one of the people in charge of restocking the food and asked,"Spaghetti, okay?" while pointing to the empty pan. The restaurant employee, whose first language was clearly also non-English, answered, "Okay," and went to go make some more lo mein. Two people, three languages and no one was misunderstood.
"Okay" - sometimes a verb, sometimes a noun - is always understood, no matter the context or inflection. A tiny word that can transcend race and language barriers, travel around the world and still retain its meaning? Pretty extraordinary...and altogether beautiful in its simplicity and universality.
I love words. More specifically, I love the history of words...how words came to be, how they travel throughout time, how they change, how they change us. Etymology. And, not surprisingly, powerful little "okay", the worldwide verbal nod, has a quirky past.