OMG a century old? That’s old hat!

New Zealand’s main online news site reported on the weekend that “OMG” – “Oh! My God” was invented 95 years ago. Old hat, I’m afraid. I reported it on this blog last year.

According to the OED, OMG was coined in 1917 by Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Fisher – Lord Fisher, First Baron of Kilverstone – in a letter to Winston Churchill.

Fisher published the letter in his iconoclastic autobiography Memories. I have a copy of the 1919 edition. Here’s my photo of the page.

First use of OMG! Part of p78 from Fisher’s ‘Memories’ (Hodder & Stoughton, 1919).

Fisher was the enfant terrible of the Royal Navy, the man who dragged the service, kicking and screaming, into the twentieth century. They didn’t call it ‘the fleet that Jack built’ for nothing. He invented the battlecruiser, though perhaps not the dreadnought.  He chaired the committee that invented ASDIC (Sonar).  In 1917 he was involved in the dramatic capture of a spy, spotted by his neighbour Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (that Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon).

Genius came at a price; Fisher was combatative, volcanic, prone to pursuing feuds beyond the point of sense. His time as First Sea Lord from 1904 to 1910 was one of the most divisive in the Navy’s history. He was recalled in 1914, aged 73; but only lasted eight months. His game of power-brinksmanship over the Gallipoli campaign triggered  the collapse of the Asquith government; but Fisher’s own career fell casualty along the way.

A volcanic figure. A man who considered himself Britain’s second Nelson – even down to getting a Lady Hamilton of his own. A man whose extraordinary, creative and controversial life is best summed up in three letters – ‘OMG’.

Not too surprising, then, that Fisher also coined it.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012


8 thoughts on “OMG a century old? That’s old hat!

    1. All thanks to the researchers of the OED. I wrote my Honours dissertation on Fisher, way back when, but never knew he’d coined it. Actually, when I wrote the dissertation, OMG wasn’t cool or even used…:-)

  1. Just goes to show there really is not much that is totally new. 🙂

    We use new technology to express the same things. Like recycled songs our kids think of as new and are so impressed when we sing along in the car….

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