I don’t know if that word “cool” is in or out. At least three different times in my life, “cool” was in. I’d use it for a decade or so, drop it for a decade or so and then start using it again. It was only when I heard other “younger” citizens using it that I knew I could say it once again. Lately, at least the last half decade, I’ve been saying it again…cool.
My first introduction to “cool” was the Hipster generation. The word “hip” originated from the word “hep” which the great Cab Calloway used in his 1939 book, “Hepster’s Dictionary.” In the book, Cab explained that a Hepster was “a guy who knows all the answers and understands jive.” About five years later, piano player, Harry Gibson used the term “Hipster” and said that was “characters who liked hot jazz.” I like the meaning written by Norman Mailer in 1957. He said a Hipster is an individual “with a middle-class background (who) attempt to put down their whiteness and adopt what they believe is the carefree, spontaneous, cool lifestyle of Negro hipsters: their manner of speaking and language, their use of milder narcotics, their appreciation of jazz and the blues, and their supposed concern with the good orgasm.” (cool)
In 1948 Jack Kerouac introduced us to “The Beat Generation” which soon involved into Beatniks. In the early ‘50s my brother’s guitar teacher invited my family to come and hear him perform. He said he was playing in a Beatnik coffee shop over near the Purdue campus. I remember my dad spitting out his first sip of espresso while everyone was sitting around saying “cool.”
Beatniks faded into Hippies in the late ‘60s. Hippie fashions and values permeated music, clothes, film, literature, TV and art. By June of 1966, there were over 15,000 hippies that had moved into the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco. Most of them said “cool” dozens of times every day.
Then there was a silent period for “cool.” No, Beatniks or Hippies. We were busy playing the great classic rock of the ‘70s, the big-hair music of the ‘80s and then the former Hipsters turned to Gangstas. Rap and Hip-Hop started dominating the airwaves.
Yet, I think my dialogue is still relevant. I think it’s OK for me to use my standard “cool” talk. I happened to catch the end of a Hip-Hop rap song the other day and the dude said, “You ain’t cool, bitch.”
Now that’s not cool.