The story of 'cool'


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/03/06/the-story-of-cool.html


#2

Cool.
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#3


#4

You have stolen my gif…

and you used the wrong one too!!!


#5


#6

Talk about dropping the ball
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve always had “cool tempers” and this video spent a lot of time on “cool fish” for prep school boys; used positively or negatively, it was an insular scene. Presumably, relatively few were concerned enough with them to even dis them, and nobody was emulating them outside of themselves. The reason you and I commonly say “cool” in the current sense(s) is absolutely because of jazz; a scene absolutely everyone, at the time, was trying to emulate.
But most importantly, the reason jazzers were using the term was because they were all trying to emulate the coolest jazzer, The President of Jazz AKA “Prez,”
LESTER MOTHERFUCKING YOUNG!
https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112255870

Young was an original in other ways. Rather than holding his
saxophone vertically, he held it high and to the right at a 45-degree
angle. He famously wore a porkpie hat and moccasins. Young also had a
flair for language: He said he had “big eyes” for the things he liked,
he nicknamed Billie Holiday “Lady Day,” and he called women’s feet in
open-toed shoes “nice biscuits.” He also made up new words that found
their way into songs. Young’s cachet among hipsters led to his popularizing now-common words. Everyone started using the word “cool” after they heard him say it, according to jazz historian Phil Schaap. “But the one that really makes the most sense,” Schaap says, "you call up Lester Young for a gig, he’d say, ‘Okay, how does the bread smell?’ So he used ‘bread’ for money for the first time.



#7

“Cool’s always cool.”

I knew this back in 1992 from Terry Pratchett’s Only You Can Save Mankind.

“Yo, Wobbler,” said Johnny.
“It’s not cool to say yo anymore,” said Wobbler.
“Is it rad to say cool?” said Johnny.
“Cool’s always cool. And no one says rad anymore, either.”


#8

I read something recently that indicated a word was likely to stay in use if it was also a physical sensation. So we still say someone’s mind or tongue is sharp, they’re a cold person but they look hot, and so on. Wish I could remember where I read that. I’m feeling kind of… dull?


#9

Whatever.


#10

I most often use it as a negative - like when I see self-important bro’s…I call them “cool guys” - as in “are you a cool guy” - I think the implication/value judgement is clear here but I mean they are completely robins.


#11

So cool. Thanks


#12

Indeed! But I want to say that there is also a longer history of the word prior to the bebop age? Seems like I’m remembering that from John Leland’s book Hip: the History? Maybe I’m confusing it with another book. But for sure, the jazz age specifically the bebop era embedded the concept in our mass culture.

[ETA] Wikipedia has some links to the a longer history of the terminology, actually:


#13

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