By Kathy Wolfe

O wow! O boy! O my! O I see! Let’s see what Tidbits has to offer with these words beginning with the letter “O.”

• It’s the 15th letter of the alphabet, and thought to be the oldest letter, about 3,150 years old. Ancient Syrians called the letter “o” ayin, which translates “eye.” “O” is about the fourth most-commonly used letter in English printed material.

•    The 24th and final letter of the Greek alphabet is omega, often used to mean “the last” of a series.

• The most common blood type is O positive, about 38% of the U.S. population. Seven percent have O negative. Those with Type O negative blood can donate to anyone, hence the name “universal donor,” but can only receive transfusions of Type O blood. Over 80% of the population has a positive blood type — A+, B+, AB+, or O+ and can receive O positive transfusions.   

• The prefix oeno- is used to form words relating to wine. One who studies wines is an oenologist, while a lover of wine is an oenophilist. Oenomel is a mixture of wine and honey.

• What do these scientists do? An osmologist studies odors, while an orologist researches mountains. The oikologist analyzes the science of housekeeping.

• Are you irritating others by constantly repeating yourself? The fancy word for what you’re doing is obganiating. It’s from the Latin for “yelp” or “growl.” If you force your ideas upon others with undue insistence, you’re obtruding.

• Oklahoma is America’s 20th largest state and takes its name from the Choctaw language – “okla” means “people” and “humma” translates to “red” referring to the red earth found there. The state’s nickname is “The Sooner State,” referring to settlers who staked their land claims before the official opening date of lands in the territory in 1889. An Oklahoma resident became the first person to be hit by space debris falling from the sky in 1997 when a 5-inch-long piece of fiberglass struck her shoulder. It was part of a rocket launched in California the year before. Fortunately, the craft’s 551-lb. fuel tank crashed into the ground near a Texas farm.

• Oklahoma is home to a community located in the middle of a toxic waste dump. Picher, Oklahoma, just _ mile off Route 66, was founded in 1920 with more than 9,700 residents. It was America’s leader in lead and zinc mining, providing half of the lead used to make the bullets fired in World War I. Large piles of waste produced from the mines were scattered around the town, and groundwater was contaminated with enormous amounts of lead. By the time the EPA investigated the area in the early 2000s, 63% of the community’s children suffered from lead poisoning. In 2009, the agency evacuated the town.

•    The residents of a monastery aren’t all monks. Those layman inhabitants who are not bound by monastic vows but choose to live and serve in the religious community are known as oblates.

• The sharpshooter Annie Oakley gained fame in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, but her skill began as a child in western Ohio, where she honed her hunting skills providing game for her impoverished family. In 1875, at age 15, she won a shooting contest against a top shooter and vaudeville performer named Frank Butler. She married Butler the following year. The pair didn’t work together professionally until 1882, when Butler’s shooting partner became ill and Oakley stepped in. They joined Buffalo Bill in 1885, and performed throughout Europe. Oakley’s tricks included snuffing out the flame on a candle with a bullet, shooting corks off bottles, and shooting a cigar from her husband’s lips. At age 40, she was badly injured in a train accident, but was able to recover following temporary paralysis and five spinal surgeries. She moved on from Buffalo Bill to an acting career on stage. She was still shooting at age 62 when she hit 100 consecutive clay targets from 16 yards (15 m). At 64, she was still setting records.

•    The city of Orlando starts with O, but it wasn’t always so. In 1840, when the community sprang up near Fort Gatlin, it was known as Jernigan. It became Orlando in 1857, but still wasn’t incorporated for another 18 years, when it boasted 29 residents. By 1900, the population was 2,481. The current metro area population is about 2,038,000. Opinions differ as to the origin of the city’s name. Some say it was named for a U.S. soldier killed near the Fort in 1835, while others maintain that a Florida judge named Orlando after the character in Shakespeare’s comedy “As You Like It,” just because he liked Shakespeare. This theory seems reasonable since the main street through the heart of the city is named Rosalind, the name of Orlando’s lover in the play.

•    What’s the difference between an optician and an optometrist? Most folks have their eye exams at the optometrist’s office who can give exams, write prescriptions for contact lenses and glasses, diagnose abnormalities in the eye, and treat certain eye diseases. An optometrist is not a medical doctor and is not licensed to perform any surgeries. A Doctor of Optometry degree typically takes four years to complete. The optician is the professional who is trained to fit eyeglasses and frames on patients. It’s the ophthalmologist who is the medical doctor, capable of diagnosing and treating all eye diseases and performing surgery. The word “optic” has its roots in the Greek words “optikos,” meaning “having to do with sight,” and “optos,” which translates “seen or visible.”

•    The law that created OSHA went into effect in April, 1971 during the administration of President Richard Nixon.    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established to promote safer working conditions, safeguarding workers from death, injuries, and illnesses resulting from their job environment. Its need was recognized after 1970’s nearly 14,000 fatalities, 2.5 million disabilities, and 300,000 illnesses brought about by poor working conditions. The program seems to have done its job, resulting in a reduction to 4,340 work-related fatalities during 2009. There were 4,764 workers killed on the job in 2020.

•    What are you afraid of? If it’s crowds, you suffer from ochlophobia. A fear of rain is ombrophobia, while oneirophobia is a fear of dreams. And how about ornithoscelidaphobics? Those folks are afraid of dinosaurs!