Winston Churchill's Unexpected Connection To The First Use Of OMG

Lol, ttyl, omw, jk, omg, and some indicating expletives that we won't list here. Most of us know what these abbreviated phrases mean, but rarely do we ask where and when they originated. Somewhere out there, there is a peppy teen girl typing "OMG" in a text that may also utilize the word "totally," or maybe a child TV star is exclaiming it while reading a painfully cheesy script destined to air on [insert generic cable network for tweens here] (because no one actually says things like that out loud in real life).

Regardless of who's saying it (forced or not), you may have guessed that kind of usage was born in the late '90s or early 2000s, during the rise of cell phones, texting, and the internet. But you're wrong. Would you believe us if we told you it was first used during World War I (via BBC)? You may have an even harder time believing that the person who coined it was far from a tech-savvy tween.

Jacky and his phrases

Lord John Fisher, known as "Jacky," was a decorated British Admiral of the Fleet, and twice a Sea Lord (via Smithsonian Magazine). He was born in 1841 in what is now Sri Lanka (via BBC), and he joined the navy at just 13 years old (via Britannica). He was an excellent student, rising through the ranks faster than his peers and becoming one of the most decorated members of the Royal Navy, scoring the highest in his class in the lieutenant's exams. His post-graduate military career saw many victories.

He fought in the Crimean War, and aided in the capture of Canton. He was later promoted to captain, and was a key player in the invasion of Alexandria. He was also knighted in 1894. A man of valor, you would never believe he was writing "O.M.G." in private letters to Winston Churchill. Even more odd, he was known to use creative abbreviations frequently in his correspondence, even coining phrases and metaphors.

Use it in a sentence

Lord John Fisher resigned from his prestigious position in 1915 only after disagreeing with Winston Churchill over the Gallipoli campaign (via Time), which was an Anglo-French operation against Turkey that much of the British military (specifically the navy) disagreed with (via Britannica). However, despite their military strategic differences, good old Jacky was sending his buddy Winston letters in 1917 (albeit a little heated). The exact sentence in the letter that would change communication history forever said, "I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis — O.M.G. (Oh! My God!) — Shower it on the Admiralty! Yours, Fisher" (via Smithsonian Magazine). Ever since, the Oxford English Dictionary crowns Lord Fisher the father of OMG, which they define as "causing or characterized by a reaction of astonishment, excitement, etc.," (via BBC).

Notice his parenthetical ensuring his reader understood how clever his groundbreaking abbreviation was? That is because he was no stranger to abbreviations, or unique phrases, according to his great-great-granddaughter Penelope, who is in the process of making a film about him. She explained that his favorite phrase was "Buggins's turn" (which he also coined), meaning awarding someone a promotion due to it being their turn, versus actually deserving it due to merit or performance. So there you have it: a decorated military admiral and Sea Lord, an outspoken strategist, and a wordsmith far ahead of his time — that, is Lord John Fisher.