Slang that's still cool...
In the gnarly world of far-out slang, only 'cool' is still groovy
by LARRY NEUMEISTER, Post Star, 1/30/2006
"Cool" remains the gold standard of slang in the 21st century, as reliable as a blue-chip stock, surviving like few expressions ever in our constantly evolving language. It has, despite the pressures of staying relevant and trendy, kept its cool through the centuries -- even as its meaning changed drastically.
"Cool just sits back and keeps getting used generation after generation and lets the whole history of the language roll off its back."
A word like groovy splashes onto the scene but dies quickly as children mock their parents with references to "The Brady Bunch"...
In 1602, Shakespeare wrote that Queen Gertrude told Hamlet: "O gentle son, Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper, Sprinkle cool patience."
By the 17th century, the word helped define a woman's ability to allay a man's passion through sex.
By the horse and buggy era, "cooling one's heels" described the need to rest a horse with overheated hooves. The 1800s saw the use of cool off, meaning to kill, and the cool customer.
Early in the 20th century, it was used to refer to large amounts of money: a cool million dollars. In the 1920s, Calvin Coolidge created a campaign slogan in his run for the White House: "Keep Cool With Coolidge." By the 1930s, cool as a cucumber was "the bee's knees" -- slang of the era for excellent.
But by the 1940s, the word exploded into popular usage through its constant use in jazz clubs, where musicians showed the versatility of a word that had already enjoyed wide use in the nation's black population. ... in 1947... the Charlie Parker Quartet recorded "Cool Blues."
Peter N. Stearns, a social historian at George Mason University and author of the book "American Cool," said cool exploded in popularity in the 1950s and 1960s because society needed a word to express attitude without anger.
"We were dealing with a culture that was placing an increasing premium on controlling emotion, particularly anger," he said. The hippies in the 1960s used the word to "promote the notion that they were relaxed and not angry," Stearns said.
Thompson said there's no reason to believe that cool will ever go the way of linguistic dinosaurs like "bad" (meaning good) or "chill" (meaning cool out).
Gag me with a spoon
Off the hook
Out of this world
The cat's pajamas
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