"cool" dates back to WW2. how cool is that?

Amy Lee Bennett amy.bennett at simmons.edu
Thu Sep 2 13:39:56 EDT 2004

I'm only 24 myself, but I was pretty sure that "cool" is not a *recent* 
slang word... so I checked online, and got this from 

Our Living Language: The usage of cool as a general positive epithet or 
interjection has been part and parcel of English slang since World War 
II, and has even been borrowed into other languages, such as French and 
German. Originally this sense is a development from a Black English 
usage meaning “excellent, superlative,” first recorded in written 
English in the early 1930s. Jazz musicians who used the term are 
responsible for its popularization during the 1940s. As a slang word 
expressing generally positive sentiment, it has stayed current (and 
cool) far longer than most such words. One of the main characteristics 
of slang is the continual renewal of its vocabulary and storehouse of 
expressions: in order for slang to stay slangy, it has to have a 
feeling of novelty. Slang expressions meaning the same thing as cool, 
like bully, capital, hot, groovy, hep, crazy, nervous, far-out, rad, 
and tubular have for the most part not had the staying power or 
continued universal appeal of cool. In general there is no intrinsic 
reason why one word stays alive and others get consigned to the 
scrapheap of linguistic history; slang terms are like fashion designs, 
constantly changing and never “in” for long. The jury is still out on 
how long newer expressions of approval such as def and phat will 

On Sep 2, 2004, at 8:04 AM, Aimee Smith wrote:
> (Ponders briefly and wonders whether, if it wasn't obvious, whether she
> should give herself away...)
> Spot on, Minnow! 'Cool' was the word (the other option was 'awesome' 
> though
> I thought that a little strong for my purposes), I thought 'cool' was 
> age
> specific, as everyone I knew growing up in the 90s used it. A lot. As 
> their
> parents, who apparently grew up when it was first(?) used, rolled 
> their eyes
> and winced. Similar reaction when my father hears one of his daughters 
> refer
> to a female as a 'chick', or express an interest in Abba.
> Funny, he didn't protest about us all inheriting his love of science
> fiction...
> Aimee, who was 20 in March.
> (Who thanks to Dad is a Trekkie and despite Dad is an Abba fan).

To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at suberic.net with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at http://suberic.net/dwj/list/

More information about the Dwj mailing list