If you have ever travelled on highways in India, you would have not escaped the sight of trucks with ‘Horn OK please’ painted on the rear hatch. Although, there is no official stipulation in Indian traffic regulations and no traffic rules in India mandate or suggest the use of such slogans, many vehicles are decorated with this phrase. In fact, the place of the phrase in India’s popular lingo can be gauged by the fact that it has a movie by the same title (the fact that it has a IMDB rating of 3.9 hardly does the phrase any favor however)
Now that Maharashtra government has banned the phrase on all the commercial vehicles (because it promotes honking!!!), let’s have a look at its origin. The origins of the phrase are not know exactly but there are three theories about its origins:
Product placement is responsible for it, what else??
In early days, most of the trucks in India were manufactured by the TATA Group. During these times, Tata Oil Mills Ltd. Co came up with a new brand of detergent called “OK”. And in order to market their detergent they used the trucks very effectively by painting OK. This brand had a symbol of lotus. Thus it became “Horn OK Please”. This carried on for a few years and as times went by the OK sort of became a part of the initial paint itself by the lorry drivers and is still being used.(Source)
The phrase traces its origins to Second World War when trucks used to run on Kerosene
During Second World War, trucks were often run on kerosene since there was a serious shortage of petrol. As Kerosene was highly unstable it could cause serious accidents event with slight disturbance. Hence a warning would be painted on the back saying “Horn Please, On Kerosene”. Gradually this became a norm and is still seen on most trucks even today.
It was a requirement at the time when we used to have single lane highways to prevent accidents
The “OK” used to be accompanied by a bulb over it, which the driver of the truck would switch on to signal the vehicle behind it that there is no oncoming traffic and hence it was okay to overtake. One other thing that was written was a courteous ‘Horn, please’, with the placement such that the ‘Horn’ was on the left side and the ‘please’ on the right. Gradually the practice of using the bulb ended but the OK remained between horn and please.
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