Today's Guest Blogger is Maureen Rogers, a Seattle writer friend who has a lot to say about slang words.
COOL - still the Freshest
When was the last time you heard something described as a doosy, copacetic, hep, or hotsy-totsy? If you’re under 40, these expressions probably seem like a foreign language. Words are disappearing as fast as our culture can create new ones and as the 21st century rolls into its second decade most of these funny old sayings have been left in the dust.
Slang has evolved and moved in and out of the English vernacular for centuries but the culture of the 1950s, those early baby boomer years, seemed to speed things up. The introduction of the transistor radio brought disk jockeys spinning rock and roll along with their platter patter. Television became the new vehicle for cultural images. The Beat era was popularized by Maynard G. Krebs on “Dobie Gillis” for his unconventional approach to life. Edd “Kookie” Byrnes, an aspiring PI, parked cars and combed his hair constantly on “77 Sunset Strip.” American slang exploded. Young people in particular were eager to adopt the words of their new ‘modern’ heroes.
The expression COOL has been around since the jazz age of the 20s but its popularity rose in the 50’s during the era of Big Daddy, cloud nine, bread (money), pad (home) and that word we boomers often had for your parents – square. From the hip and cool cats of the 50s, the surfer beach crowd impacted our words. Slang moved on to cool dude, boss and bogus in the 60s. The war protesters and hippie movement that followed us into the 70s had a stronger influence. Dropping out became the theme for many. We were groovy, funky, psychedelic, sometimes veering toward radical.
In the 80’s when the war was over, the ‘me’ generation came up with new words for COOL such as outrageous, bad and bodacious. Meanwhile punk influence brought about more extreme expressions for COOL like sick. In the 90’s culture veered into new territory with rap music and the black gangster culture. Expressions like whoa, jiggy, the bomb, ghetto, and phat became the words of the day for many. Somewhere in the last couple of decades awesome slipped into everyday lingo for kids and many adults.
In the 2000s COOL branched out into fresh and adopted a popular cousin, chill. The expression hot, which has been around forever, is making a strong comeback these days.
But anyway you look at it, COOL is still hands down, the grand prize winner -- the slang word that has survived all others for almost a century. So what is it about temperature? Either up or down, these words have a power to express our emotions so succinctly that they hang on through generations.
When words fail to describe something wonderful, absolutely fantastic, COOL always fits. I still find myself using it, my adult kids use it, I even recall my mother using it a time or two. As baby boomers of the mid 20th century, we may never be the bee’s knees or the cat’s pajamas but hopefully, as long as we’re here, we’ll still be COOL.
Maureen Rogers is a transplanted Canadian who has lived in the Seattle area for over 40 years. Her writing projects include fiction, poetry and essays. She has been published online, in newspapers, anthologies and is currently working on a collection of short stories.