When Gossip Girl fans (or really all of us, all the time) are all “OMG” over the latest plot twist, they probably have no idea that they’re quoting a British World War I admiral.
But it’s true. As the folks at Oxford English Dictionary discovered last year, the first known appearance of the acronym was in 1917.
Our first reaction to learning that OMG is 95 years old was, well: OMG!
In a letter signed on September 9, 1917, at the height of World War I, Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher wrote “I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis—O.M.G (Oh! My! God!)—Shower it on the Admiralty!!”
Fisher was writing to Winston Churchill, who would eventually go on to serve as British prime minister during the next world war. In the letter, tweeted out by the blog Letters of Note on Monday, Fisher worried over some then-recent successes of the German navy. The correspondence made its first public appearance in Fisher’s memoir, released in 1919.
It seemed that the acronym laid dormant for many more decades. According to our search of books using Google Ngrams, OMG didn’t really take off until the 1990s and the popularization of the Internet.
See for yourself:
By our perusal, the bumps in ’50s and ’70s appear to refer to phrases other than “Oh my God” being shortened to OMG. (Things like “Object Management Group,” a consortium of companies.) However, the Oxford English Dictionary did find one pre-web usage of the acronym. It occurred in a 1982 Los Angeles Times advertisement for tangelos and tangerines, of all things. The ad read, “You’ll find the season’s best tangelos and tangerines now at our famous produce stalls. We spotted some marked O-M-G Tangelos, about the biggest we’ve seen.” Bonus: The storied Oxford English Dictionary cites the “Joys of Cybersex” in its definition of “OMG.”
Of course, there could be instances of the word we or Oxford don’t know about. After all, blasphemy has been around at least since the Bible.