Aug. 6, 2012 at 8:15 PM ET
You may feel cool and modern when you communicate with your friends in bits of jargon and acronyms - LOL, BTW, BRB and so on — but it may interest you to know that OMG may be older than your grandparents. The earliest known OMG has been spotted in a 1917 letter from a British admiral to Winston Churchill.
In the letter (first published in 1919), Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher makes light of the nay-saying British papers, which were worry-mongering over the German fleet at the time. Lord Fisher scoffs at this, saying the British fleet could "gobble up in a few minutes" the German navy.
At the end, he jokes that a new chivalric order is being planned for the faithless at home. Such societies are generally the "Order of something," such as the Order of Saint George (OSG) or the Order of the Golden Fleece (OGF). The new one would commemorate the doubters' hysteria: OMG, or "Oh! My God!"
His suggestion for this dubious honor is to "Shower it on the Admiralty!!" The Admiralty, presumably, being the source of the unpatriotic hand-wringing.
It's a bit of a dry and dusty joke, but it still works, and it's certainly a legitimate OMG (more so than Geoffrey Chaucer's). As such, it has been entered into the record at the Oxford English Dictionary as the earliest known occurrence of this "initialism," as they call it.
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Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.