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Posted by ESC on November 17, 2003

In Reply to: That was uncool... posted by Lotg on November 17, 2003

: : How old is the term 'cool' (eg. to exclaim pleasure at something that's really groovy)? In the last item I posted I referred to a movie I watched called Vice Versa, made in 1947.

: : A very very young Anthony Newly exclaimed 'cool' (as young boys do) when he was given something he really liked. It surprised both my partner and I as it wasn't something we expected to hear in a black & white 40's movie. I thought it evolved in the 60's, but clearly I'm wrong.

: Sorry, that should have been "my partner and me".


College slang circa 1900: cooler = sharp, witty.

Mainstream 1950s: cool dad = popular boy. cool it = relax. "Cool was the undisputed champion of approval-expressing slang in the 1950s, both in the mainstream and the beat youth..."

Mainstream 1960s: cool it = stop what you're doing and relax.

Hippie Counterculture: cool = good.

Hiphop & Rap: cool = yes.

" 'Cool' is one of the more amorphous and ubiquitous of slang words used by American youth in the later half of the century. Its several meanings are vague and overlapping, and analyses on historical principles are particularly difficult." The author cites a use by F. Scott Fitzgerald in "This Side of Paradise" . His protagonist is in search of "cool people."

"Used in a metaphorical sense to denote one who is marked by steady dispassionate calmness, 'cool' has been around the block a time or two. Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Ralph Waldo Emerson all employed 'cool' in the metaphorical, if slangy, sense. The general spread of 'cool' into the mainstream slang vernacular, though was the work of Bob musicians who in the late 1940s embraced 'cool' as an adjective to describe the jazz they were playing."

From "Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang" by Tom Dalzell (Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Md., 1996)