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Continued: It's so not cool for a good word to be overused

  • Article by: SETH STEVENSON
  • Last update: October 16, 2013 - 7:01 PM

Yes, I know, language is fluid, words evolve, meanings shift and meld. Just ask famed lexicographer Paris Hilton. Hilton literally trademarked the catchphrase “that’s hot.” Yet she uttered it with such obvious disengagement and indifference that, for a brief cultural moment, it was sort of cool. Fluidity in action. Polar reversal. Not bad (meaning bad) but bad (meaning good). Are you up for it? I’m down.

I acknowledge this is a purely semantic and almost certainly futile battle on my part. Please note: I’m not saying I’m cool. And I’m not saying it’s better to be cool than geeky. I might even be guilty, on occasion, of misusing cool in precisely the manner I’ve railed against here. Once in a while, I, too, geek out. (“Coooooool,” I murmured as I swiped a finger across the screen of my first iPhone. And then I felt a hot wave of shame.)

I’m just trying to raise awareness here. We ought to restore the integrity of the term. Cool had a singular and powerful connotation, once. Now we’ve diluted it beyond recognition. It’s become just another all-purpose accolade. Cool’s not cool anymore.

 

Seth Stevenson is author of “Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.” He wrote this article for Slate.

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