Cool: Buzzword Research

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What exactly is cool? While some slang words die the day after they are conceived, or can only be applied to a specific culture and geographical setting, cool is an ever expanding word that knows no bounds. You can find it describing the temperature of the water that comes from the right side of the faucet, or explaining why a product is something that everyone should own. It can describe the genre of music being listened to or a glance into someone’s personality. Not only has it been used in a multitude of phrases across the nation, it is also one of the few slang words to have theories formed in an effort to understand it. Although, understanding the word goes beyond just knowing what it means and how it’s used, an understanding of the words origin also plays a key role.

Cool has had a variety of meanings throughout time, although figuring out which was the first to be used in a slang sense varies on the sources looked at. Some say that the term’s first use is dated back to the origins of Beowulf, being used infrequently in the play by minor characters to describe the emotions of others as calm, dispassionate, or unexcited (Quinion). While this idea predates all of the other possibilities, the strongest and most prevalent speculation is that its birth was in the 1940s with the jazz age alongside the genre of cool jazz, in which, “Jazz aficionados used the term to distinguish this style from the hot jazz…”(Quinion). Those who follow the idea that the term was first coined in Beowulf will agree with the popularity and increase of use during the 1940s, but will also say that the term had changed several times before, and is a cumulative result of those changes. While those supporting the belief that cool was born during the jazz age will reject the claims, state that the term was only initially used to represent the melodies of cool jazz, and didn’t become a “heavier” slang term until the mid-1940s and into the 1950s (MacAdams).

Regardless of the debate over...
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