I wrote before about alright and all right. But it occurred to me today that we use alright (or all right: for simplicity’s sake I’m just going to use alright from now on) as an exclamation, meaning great! Which is a little odd when you think about it.
We mainly use the word to mean OK, average, neither good nor bad. But that’s obviously not what we’re doing in this case.
Literally, this use of alright makes more sense. It’s much closer to the actual meaning of the two words it’s composed of: all is right – alright!
It’s probably a simple case of expanding on our use of it to mean OK, in a sense of agreement. When we use OK or alright in this way, we’re signalling to the other person that their proposal is acceptable to us.
By shouting Alright!! though, and strongly emphasising that second syllable, we’re strengthening that sense of agreement, making it much more positive, showing we strongly agree. This then gradually gradually became a positive exclamation.
It’s an interesting example of how important tone is, even though it’s something we’re usually never really conscious of. In fact, alright is a very useful example of the importance of tone. Think of all the difference meanings you can give it using different tones, and maybe adding a sigh for good measure.
Not OK though, that can only mean agreement or, well, OK. Maybe in time it’ll develop more uses, but for now, alright is the far more versatile word.