My dear Winston… O.M.G! Tech phrase loved by today’s teenagers was first used 100 YEARS AGO in a letter to Churchill

April 7, 2013 3:46 pm 1 comment Views: 931

OMG.It’s one of the most popular phrases of the modern technological age used by just about every teenage girl in Western civilisation.

However, it seems the ‘Oh my God’ initialism O.M.G. is actually very ‘last century’.

It dates back to 1917 when British admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher first penned the expression in a letter to Winston Churchill.

Lord ‘Jacky’ Fisher, as he was known, had been writing about some ‘utterly [upsetting]’ World War I newspaper headlines.

A copy of the letter British admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher sent to Winston Churchill in 1917 where he used the phrase ‘O.M.G’ which has now become popular among teenagers

He wrote: ‘I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis — O.M.G (Oh! My! God!)— Shower it on the Admiralty!!’

The phrase, added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2011, is the colloquial shorthand for ‘Oh My God’, generally used in conversations to express surprise, embarrassment, excitement and disgust, according to the Urban Dictionary.

It is normally associated with teenage girls and the phrase was thought to have originated from online chat rooms, most commonly used in online games, web chats and in text messages.

It is frequently heard on reality TV shows too, including The Only Way is Essex.

Lord 'Jacky' Fisher, as he was known, used it in a letter to the famous wartime prime minister about some 'utterly [upsetting]' World War I newspaper headlines
Lord 'Jacky' Fisher, as he was known, used it in a letter to the famous wartime prime minister about some 'utterly [upsetting]' World War I newspaper headlines

Lord ‘Jacky’ Fisher (left), as he was known, used it in a letter to the famous wartime prime minister about some ‘utterly [upsetting]’ World War I newspaper headlines

And indeed, it is a far cry from the upper-class world of Lord Fisher who was one of the most celebrated officers in the history of the Royal Navy.

Lord Fisher began his career during the Crimean War and ended it during the First World War.

He is widely credited for materially preparing the fleet for war, introducing the world’s first all-big-gun battleship Dreadnought.

However, he resigned as First Sea Lord in 1915 after falling out with the then First Lord Winston Churchill over the commitment to the Dardanelles expedition.


Such is the power of writing in the digital age, typing on screen has become a major force in driving the evolution of language.

Expressions such as OMG and LOL are cropping up more frequently as actual speech, bringing with them added layers of meaning.

Never before has so much typed language migrated towards the spoken word rather than vice versa, according to the New Scientist.

For example, LOL (pronounced as ‘doll’) goes beyond the meaning of ‘laughing out loud’ when it is spoken.

It suggests a sense of belonging to a particular ‘tribe’ – in this instance, the digitally savvy.

And it builds on earlier web language spoken by those ‘in the know’, such as use of the term ‘’ which has since passed into the mainstream.

Meanwhile, LOL – now defined as ‘laughing out loud’ – was first used in the 1980s in bulletin board systems (BBS), which were early forums where geeks gathered to talk about computing.

It was first recorded around this time on Usenet – a BBS established at the University of North Carolina and the neigbouring Duke University more than a decade before the World Wide Web was developed.

All this is scant consolation for the millions of ‘textlexic’ Britons who are unable to understand the abbreviations sent to them in phone messages.

Six in 10 adults admit they have received a message which left them baffled, thanks to the ever-growing dictionary of initials and phrases, according to research published last October.

Even people in powerful positions can become confused, as became clear when David Cameron told the Leveson Inquiry that he believed ‘LOL’ stood for ‘lots of love’.

A survey of 1,000 adults found that many were aware of ‘LOL’ and ‘C U L8R’, which means ‘see you later’.

Many now use text shorthand in all forms of writing, from emails to status updates on websites such as Facebook.

Some over-50s are slipping the odd ‘BTW’ (‘by the way’) or ‘IMHO’ (‘in my humble opinion’) into their emails, the research for online security firm SecurEnvoy showed.

But four in 10 adults fear the practice has become so common that children are not learning how to write English correctly.

Text language, like using ‘4’ instead of ‘for’ or ‘OMG’ for ‘oh my God’, developed when the earliest mobile phones only allowed 160 characters on a text.

Although that restriction no longer exists, Twitter has a 140-character limit and many use textspeak in all forms of written communication today as if it was a normal part of language.

SecurEnvoy boss Andy Kemshall said: ‘A quarter of the population tend to use text words rather than normal English.

‘It shows the impact that texting and the mobile phone has had on society. The tendency to shorten words has stuck around.

‘Given that 60 per cent have received a text that they didn’t understand because it contained text speak, perhaps it is a worrying trend and a source of confusion and miscommunication.’

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