Monday, October 11, 2010

Now That's Cool

WARNING: There is gratuitous use of "quotation marks" throughout this blog. You have been "warned"!

I work at a major University and every year I see a new crop of kids who start to forge their way through 4 years of education. Each year brings either a new trend, fad, fancy new gadget, or cause. To say I've seen it all would be an understatement. As far as words go, there is always a new catch phrase or trendy word. I noticed just the other day when I overheard some freshmen talking that one particular word has seemed to stand the test of time. The word in question that they were using so copious was Cool.

That's when I started to think about just how long I had been hearing this particular word. I realized that Cool has been with me awhile. Reflecting back, I remembered using it as far back as grade shool with phrases such as "Mr McCall is cool", "cool bike", and "that's a really cool TV show". As I got older, it was "cool car", "that cops pretty cool", and "man, that's cool!" When I became a parent, Cool was still there with stuff like "cool it!", "smoking is not cool" and "a tattoo will not make you look cool".

Cool has been represented in many forms, such as a cartoon character, Joe Cool; a music group, Cool and the Gang (ok, they used a "K" but it meant the same thing); a song, Cool the Engines by Boston; a movie, Cool Hand Luke; a dessert topping, Cool Whip and even drinks, Kool Aid (again with the "K") and Wine Coolers. My research revealed that Cool has been around since at least the 1930s, when it was used to describe a Musician's "Cool Jazz", as a difference to "Hot Jazz", which was then in vogue. Some credit Jazz Musician Lester Young for popularizing the term in Jazz circles with his style of "Smooth Jazz". It became everyday use after the 2nd World War when the Cool Jazz movement happened.

Cool has survived various spelling mutinies as well, such as kool and kewl, but in the end it always means the same thing... sort of. You see, Cool is one of those multiple meaning words. Cool can take on the same meaning as relaxed, stylish, or even excellent. So what does the foreseeable future hold for Cool? Nobody knows for sure, but whatever iteration is used it's bound to be "cool". If history is any indication, Cool will continue to be used by all generations. Now that's Cool!

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