That’s O.K. What’s O.K.?

Posted on October 18, 2014 by

Here’s an example of how “millennials” use language differently than previous generations of Americans:

I had an early evening meeting in Mid-Wilshre, L.A., had only enough time to find a meter but did’t have any change.

Three or four 20-somethings were clustered near a building and – after I parked – I approached waving a dollar bill.

“Excuse me, does anyone have change? Need it for the meter.  They don’t take credit cards here.”

Didn’t get much of a reaction so I waited.

Was I being perceived as a minor annoyance or, worse, an intruder. Just wanted to do a little personal business and be on my way.

Finally, one of the guys looked me over.

“That’s O.K.” he said.

“What’s O.K.?” I replied.

Was I picking up on the code? Was it:

O.K you have change of a dollar. O.K. you don’t have change of a dollar. O.K. I should go fuck myself.

“That’s O.K.” he repeated.

Now I knew what I was into here. My kids had taught me this routine.

“Do you want to go out to dinner?” I would ask.

“That’s O.K.” my daughter would answer.

“That’s O.K. you want to go? Or that’s O.K. you don’t want to go?”

My interpretation of “That’s O.K” is that the question itself is treated as unnecessary, invasive and unworthy of a direct response.

It’s a way of being vague and blunt at the same time.

I didn’t get quarters from my pals but from a stray pedestrian and have since considered if “That’s O.K.” is somehow characteristic of this generation. Self protective, opaque, tentative, elusive.

An adaptive behavior, a way to contain and restrain pestering parents and others.

A message to any and all (in other words):

“Don’t Bother Me.”

Comments (6)


  1. pbw says:

    great observation. My problem, too, in talking with my grandkids. “that’s okay.” and “I’m good” in response to “want something to eat?” Not sure what the message is sometimes.

  2. Mark Gibney says:

    Pretty irritating. Have heard talk on the radio about how all this viewing the world through an LED screen is exacerbating autistic traits in younger people. They are less interested in and have lower ability to relate to others face to face than our generation. And to think we were warned of the evils of television.

  3. John Laxmi says:

    The comment may have meant that the group did not care whether you paid or not for parking. Many Millennials have little understanding of parking fees or other types of fees, charges and taxes.

  4. Ethel says:

    It is kind of scary to realize that this generation gap makes it impossible for us to communicate with young people who are hanging out in a group. I wonder if it would be easier if there was only one millennial there instead of a few. Maybe in a group they speak their own jargon which they know is unintelligible to an older person.

  5. Alan says:

    The purpose of language, of course, is to communicate, not obfuscate. When I talk to people who don’t understand me, I, sadly, move on. Special jargon, meant to exclude others can be found in prisons, cults, etc.

    “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
    –Albert Einstein

  6. Fred Stevens says:

    That’s OK, and I’m good, are self centered answers. Direct influence from the do your own thing, looking out for number one, and CYA generations before. In otherwords, each Generation is more self-oriented than the previous one.

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