Is the acronym "O.K." generally pronounced as an iamb or a trochee? Or is it context-dependent?

  • We try not to answer questions you can look up in a dictionary. (Which says context-dependent for American English; it may be different in British English.) – Peter Shor Nov 7 '16 at 14:10
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    It's context-dependent in BrE too. But I wonder why you didn't include a spondee as an option... – Andrew Leach Nov 7 '16 at 14:13
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    @lunarplasma If you’re feeling okay, the stress is at the end, but if you have an okay feeling, it’s at the beginning. I haven't been able to find a dictionary that explains this adequately, so I’ve answered your question mentioning it. – tchrist Nov 7 '16 at 14:18
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    I find these questions from people who obviously speak good English to be no-gos. – Lambie Nov 7 '16 at 14:20
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    @tchrist I pronounce "I have an OK feeling" with OK as a spondee (two long or two separate accents). And that's what I think I hear. – Mitch Nov 7 '16 at 16:07

This specific question can be answered by any dictionary. However, there is a more general question underlying it which may merit closer attention, and that is how pretty much all two-letter letter-pairs in English place the stress on the second letter not on the first.

  • A.D., B.C.
  • B.A., B.S., M.S.
  • U.S., U.K.
  • P.S., M.C., D.T., A.I., G.I., O.D.

This includes O.K. — at least when pronounced as initials. The only exception is when the initialism has been assimilated into a pronounced word, in which case the stress falls more naturally on the first syllable, as in a Let’s welcome Deejay Somebody or that’s an okay try.

I suppose it’s possible that it’s actually the attributive use there that triggers the stress regression more than it is thinking of those things as spelt-out words. That, I’m not sure of.

  • I actually see "okay" written a lot more often than "deejay", so I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of what produces exceptions to this rule, but DJ is certainly the one (and only) that came to my mind. – Darren Ringer Nov 7 '16 at 16:20
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    This is true for letter-pairs in isolation, but not as part of a longer phrase when the first syllable after the letter-pair is accented. In British English, "The U.K. government" and "The U.S. president" both have the accent on U, but "The government of the U.K." and "The President of the U.S." have the accent on K and S. – alephzero Nov 7 '16 at 18:55
  • @alephzero I think that may be due to those being used attributively rather than as standalone nouns. – tchrist Nov 7 '16 at 22:07
  • I don't get why you think those pairs are stressed on the second letter. – AmI Nov 7 '16 at 22:30

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