“OMG”: Churchillian Origins of the Texters’ Phrase

“OMG”: Churchillian Origins of the Texters’ Phrase

Admi­ral of the Fleet Lord Fish­er (1841-1920)

“I work for the New York Times Upfront, a mag­a­zine run by Scholas­tic Inc. and the New York Times for high school stu­dents. We hope you can ver­i­fy a recent piece of news. The Dai­ly Mail has pub­lished a let­ter writ­ten Sep­tem­ber 9, 1917, by Britain’s First Sea Lord, Admi­ral John Fish­er, to First Lord of the Admi­ral­ty Win­ston Churchill, where he first used the acronym O.M.G., for “Oh My God.” As you know, “OMG” is a phrase often used by tex­ters, espe­cial­ly teenagers! Is Fish­er the orig­i­na­tor, and is there a hand­writ­ten ver­sion of his let­ter to Churchill?” —A.P., New York, N.Y.


There’s no doubt that it’s gen­uine, but we are not sure why the Dai­ly Mail thinks this is a dis­cov­ery. Lord Fish­er repro­duced the let­ter in his book, Mem­o­ries (Amer­i­can edi­tion, New York: Doran 1919) at page 77. The same let­ter was repro­duced by Admi­ral Bacon in his biog­ra­phy, Admi­ral of the fleet Lord Fish­er (Lon­don: Hod­der & Stoughton,, 2 vols., 1929) II 194.

Fish­er had a flam­boy­ant writ­ing style, often sign­ing his let­ters to Churchill, “Yours till a cinder”—and oth­er loqua­cious salu­ta­tions which, giv­en his res­ig­na­tion and dis­ap­pear­ance from the Admi­ral­ty in May 1915, were some­what less than sin­cere. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Churchill Archives Cen­tre in Cam­bridge reports that they do not have a copy of the original.

I can­not track “O.M.G.” or the spelled-out ver­sion to any­thing Churchill him­self said or wrote, though Roo­sevelt once said “Oh My God” over a sil­ly ques­tion at a post-Yal­ta press con­fer­ence. And Churchill’s best friend, Lord Birken­head (1872-1930) once cracked: “When Win­ston is right he is unique. When he is wrong, Oh My God!”

Bot­tom line: cred­it “O.M.G.” to Jacky Fisher!

—Answered for the edi­tors of The Churchillian, Nation­al Churchill Muse­um, Win­ter 2012 issue.

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