A universal word in today's youth culture, it can be used to denote any kind of approval or positive attitude in regard to an object ("Cool shirt, dude"), an action ("That was fucking cool"), among many other things.

However, it has also been used as means of social oppression. The "in" crowd would often use this term to define themselves separate from The "out" crowd. It usually goes something like this: "You're not cool, so beat it, geek".

What defines if something is cool? Simple. Pop culture. The cultural norms of the nation are set by a bunch of marketers sitting in some corporate skyscraper. If you can possibly believe that. That's not cool!

Fortunately, not the entire nation are Abercrombie and Fitch and Banana Republic slaves. Geeks have geek culture. Goths have goth culture. We have our own standards of cool. And our culture is a heck of a lot less shallow than pop culture. So there.

A "Natural Lemon Flavored Iced Tea" soft drink from Nestea (which is part of Coca-Cola). Nestea's slogan is "Cools you to the Core". The Cool mascot as of late 2004 was the Cool Snowman. In television advertising, the Snowman would repeatedly get himself into bad situations involving a source of heat that starts to melt him and he needs to drink some Cool to cool off.

Although it is iced tea, Cool is almost as bad as any other soda when it comes to sugar. Worst of all, it doesn't have any caffeine! I forgive Nestea, though, because it tastes really good. Cool is available in 12-ounce cans, 20-ounce PET bottles, 1-liter, 2-liter, 12 and 24-packs and also comes as a diet beverage.

Speaking of personas, I have been thinking about being “cool”, what it means, what it is, etc. The sort of expectations people have about what cool is. After all, you can’t BE cool, unless everybody thinks you’re cool, and it has to be a pretty unanimous decision. Fair enough. I guess that when you look at it that way, that being cool is something that other people project onto the subject, then being cool is undesirable thing to be, seeing as how it renders the subject dependent on the outside opinions. Fair enough.

Still, though, being cool can be awfully useful. It is a source of power, I guess. Social power, and that is a good thing to have, if you know how to use it. But I am running at the keys again. My point:

In order to BE cool, you must first know what cool is. Cool, very simply, means entirely lacking in emotion. That might sound strange, but it’s true. The ability to keep a straight face no matter what situations are encountered, is cool. So the less emotion the better, as far as cool is concerned. And if you are convinced that I am already way off track, just consider what is meant when someone is told not to “lose their cool.” Exactly.

So the first step to being cool is losing all emotion, or at least all outward SIGNS of emotion. Fair enough, but there is a lot more to it than that. Being consistent, for example. It is important that a cool persona be consistent in the majority of his actions and or beliefs. People prefer dependability. However, the don’t like stale, so it is important to keep a healthy dose of unpredictability in one’s arsenal at all times. This might sound like a paradox, and it is, but there is nothing wrong with that. Perfectly normal, perfectly healthy. So, for example, a cool person might not care at all where he eats lunch, but might eat at the same place everyday, or eat the same meal at a different location everyday. Does that make any sense? Sure it does. Consistent indifference. However, the cool person must be capable of surprises, and one of the most widely regarded displays of capriciousness is a willingness to travel anywhere, anytime. People just think that is cool. Do your own research if you don’t believe me, otherwise, take my word for it.

Now, travel usually requires money, but a cool person need not have much money at all, and in fact, many of the icons of cool in this century have been lower class. Fair enough. Having money is not important then, but being cool requires resources of some kind, and the ability to use them efficiently. These resources usually take the form of social contacts the cool person can call upon for goods or services, at will, and usually in exchange for an “I owe you one.” That’s cool. Social resources are usually gained through respect or admiration, but also through acts of intercession by the cool person on the behalf of the new social contact. Intercessions may come in the form of rescuing the contact from verbal or physical assault, the lending of other social contacts’ goods or services in a time of need, or what have you.

Another important aspect of the cool person is the category of intelligence. The cool person must be informed on pertinent events. He must be smart enough to understand the implications behind events, and wise enough to offer council when needed. This council should never come in the form of long winded sermons, but clear, concise, easy to understand advice that is readily applicable to the situation being dealt with. In addition, the cool person must know when it is wise to act, when it is not, and will always act efficiently, rising to the occasion at the perfect moment. The cool person does not act impiously, or rashly, or too late. Usually this is accomplished by viewing any given situation with calm indifference, gauging and plotting, but not revealing anything, formulating a plan to resolve the situation, and doing so with minimal effort.

The cool person always has excellent taste, which is often difficult to gauge correctly, but usually the taste is fairly conservative, which saves the cool person from accidentally excluding a potential social contact through outlandish behavior, dress, preference of music, food, drink, or the opposite sex. This is much easier said than done, of course. Fair enough.

Being cool is a daunting task, but to some it comes naturally, and to others, with practice. With time, the two are indistinguishable. It is very important to remember, however, that being cool isn’t something a person DOES, it is a way that person is PERCEIVED by others.

Jazz musicians used the word "cool" in the 1940s to describe a style of jazz that was more subtle and restrained than styles such as bebop. Miles Davis is among the most noteworthy of musicians to popularize the cool jazz style. The jazzmen may have been reacting to the impresarios of an earlier era, who designated their music "hot." They quickly began to apply the term elsewhere, as a signifier of approval.

However, the selection of this term was likely influenced by an even older popular use of the word to mean, rational, restrained, or level-headed, as in Calvin Coolidge's 1920s presidential campaign slogan, "Be Cool with Coolidge!" This other use of "cool" goes back to the 1840s, at least, and may be older yet. The related term, "cool cat" existed at least since the 1920s. "Cool" itself was prominent in Black culture by the 1930s, and appears in written text from that era with its current meaning. The word's popularity may have come from an African-American culture that prized a detached attitude as a way of avoiding scrutiny. Its use had become widespread by the 1950s. It was further popularized by the beatnik and hippy subcultures, or at least by the marketing thereof. As previous write-ups indicate, it remains current.

A now-deleted write-up attributed the word to Stephen Sondheim, who allegedly claims to have first used the word "cool" to mean "that which is positive" in the musical West Side Story. I cannot verify whether or not he made that claim, but, living in the musical culture of the mid-twentieth century, it would be almost impossible for him not to have heard it prior to using it in that musical.

There is a basic paradox about what being "cool" is, and it is easy to explain, easy to give examples, but, of course, hard to explain the substance of why cool is a paradox.

Take a cool person you know. (cool institutions, art forms, activities, and the like are also accepted). Write down some adjectives that describe that person. After you have written a number, you will find them falling into two categories. You might write about how they are suave, charismatic, charming, street smart, worldly, sophisticated, popular, energetic...all attributes that relate somehow to them being able to relate to people and the world easily. But you might have also mentioned that they are individualistic, rebellious, non-conformist, abrasive, reclusive, and sometimes obsessed with minutiae. After reading that list, I hope you are thinking about Prince, who is a pretty representative cool person in that he was charismatic enough to connect with people as the top musician of a decade---but also a somewhat ornery nerd who spent his time sequestered in a suburban office park obsessing over musical detail. Or maybe you are thinking of Bob Dylan, the voice of a generation who didn't like that generation and periodically cratered his career by making inaccessible junk. And we haven't even left Minnesota yet. The cool are stuck between the glitz and the grit. Take away the grit and you have a used-car salesman, back slapping, obsequious and everyone's friend. Take away the glitz and you have GG Allin, someone who is just anti-social. Neither of them is cool. Coolness lies somewhere in-between.

You might be objecting to parts of this. If you are, there is good chance you are British, or from somewhere even further away, like New York City. When I lived in Santiago de Chile, the biggest culture shock for me was that it was the first time I was around people from the Eastern United States and Europe. To many people from places like that, "cool" is a synonym with trendy, fashionable or (heavens forbid) chic. There was a bland literalness to what they thought "cool" was. To someone from a European country, flying to a fancy ski resort and spending money on expensive food at a "trendy" restaurant or wearing "designer" clothing might be thought of as equivalent to the American "cool". In part, it is because Europeans have no concept of irony: no ability to understand that society is a series of constructions, and that even when relating to those things, it is possible to take them non-literally, to think more about our attitude towards them, than the things themselves. A British girl once used the word "cheeky" to me in a Whatsapp Message, and it made me quit my job and then stare at some railroad tracks for about half an hour, wondering whether to throw myself in front of a train, because I couldn't comprehend how someone would be so fucking uncool to use the word "cheeky" unironically. Because "cheeky", a term almost completely used by the British, is about the style of defiance with no substance behind it, a gesture thrown out to show you are fashionable, but with no content. And this girl had studied jazz in Jazz, she should know better!

Now lets take a little detour around that last point because I mentioned two things: style and substance, and jazz. And Oakland. While cultural historians might debate the specifics, the basic idea of "cool" came from jazz musicians, and the African-American community in general, in the days before civil rights. "Cool" was a way to defy social structures in an oblique way, because defying them openly could be dangerous to livelihood and life. It spread in the post-World War II period to different groups who somehow wished to question the status quo but either feared to do so openly, or didn't have the tools to do so. Before people had the tools to publish their opposition openly, they had to communicate it through eccentricity and weirdness that was just oblique enough to be undetectable to the authorities...but obvious enough to those In The Know. So here is a gigantic key part of being cool that is lost on many people: coolness always has an emancipatory message behind it. That is the substance of coolness, it is somehow freeing. This is a point lost on so many people in places like Silicon Valley and London: it is not possible to disappear for the weekend, take lots of drugs, have lots of sex, then pop up back on Monday ready to uphold the status quo. That is why Burning Man is so fucking uncool. It was why the Fyre Festival, even before it fell apart, was uncool. But as an addendum to that, the substance of a cool person is never ideological. Ideologues who try to hijack what they imagine of as "cool" to push their ideology make their ideology look simplistic and uncool at the same time. There is a goal of emancipation behind every act of coolness, but what that goal is, is "never quite what appears on the surface, and is utterly inaccessible to obtuse and literal minds." It is totally acceptable, even necessary for cool people to work within the structures of established industries. It is okay for a popular tv show or style of music to never overtly state a political idea, or to state it in a roundabout fashion. That does not ruin its coolness. But lack of substance does, and will.

And some people might be objecting to me saying even this much. Can "Coolness" be explained, and if it could, could it be explained by user of minor internet forum Everything2.com? What right do I have to speak of coolness? Well, I got a 45 rpm recording of Wabash Cannonball by country singer Rusty Draper for 25 cents out of a bin the other day, and that is my fucking cred. You are welcome for the effort I've put into explaining the concept of "cool" to you.

Cool (?), a. [Compar. Cooler (?); superl. Coolest.] [AS. col; akin to D. koel, G. kuhl, OHG. chouli, Dan. kolig, Sw. kylig, also to AS. calan to be cold, Icel. kala. See Cold, and cf. Chill.]


Moderately cold; between warm and cold; lacking in warmth; producing or promoting coolness.

Fanned with cool winds. Milton.


Not ardent, warm, fond, or passionate; not hasty; deliberate; exercising self-control; self-possessed; dispassionate; indifferent; as, a cool lover; a cool debater.

For a patriot, too cool. Goldsmith.


Not retaining heat; light; as, a cool dress.


Manifesting coldness or dislike; chilling; apathetic; as, a cool manner.


Quietly impudent; negligent of propriety in matters of minor importance, either ignorantly or willfully; presuming and selfish; audacious; as, cool behavior.

Its cool stare of familiarity was intolerable. Hawthorne.


Applied facetiously, in a vague sense, to a sum of money, commonly as if to give emphasis to the largeness of the amount.

He had lost a cool hundred. Fielding.

Leaving a cool thousand to Mr.Matthew Pocket. Dickens.

Syn. -- Calm; dispassionate; self-possessed; composed; repulsive; frigid; alienated; impudent.


© Webster 1913.

Cool, n.

A moderate state of cold; coolness; -- said of the temperature of the air between hot and cold; as, the cool of the day; the cool of the morning or evening.


© Webster 1913.

Cool, v. t. [imp. & p.p. Cooled (?); p.pr. & vb.n. Cooling.]


To make cool or cold; to reduce the temperature of; as, ice cools water.

Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue. Luke xvi. 24.


To moderate the heat or excitement of; to allay, as passion of any kind; to calm; to moderate.

We have reason to cool our raging motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts. Shak.

To cool the heels, to dance attendance; to wait, as for admission to a patron's house. [Colloq.]



© Webster 1913.

Cool, v. i.


To become less hot; to lose heat.

I saw a smith stand with his hammer, thus, the whilst his iron did on the anvil cool. Shak.


To lose the heat of excitement or passion; to become more moderate.

I will not give myself liberty to think, lest I should cool. Congreve.


© Webster 1913.

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