Linguist, lexicographer and the new "On Language" columnist for the New York Times Magazine Ben Zimmer talks about the latest in language.
→ Contest! How can you use today's buzz phrase "Top Kill" in a sentence?
I think cool is coo!
Ben, I've noticed an increasing use of the word "So" to begin sentences. During the flu epidemic, a number of doctors and researchers interviewed on PBS did that. It shows up during the NPR broadcasts, as well. My sister, from Michigan, has the habit of ending sentences with "so..." followed by silence.
I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts on this.
You can consciously choose to be hip, but you can't choose to be cool--in fact, if you try to be cool, you aren't.
I meant to write:
It always feels like the person is trying TOO hard to be ..... cool. (Snore.)
The use of the word cool in Disney's Little Mermaid has always troubled me, the fish Flounder uses it when speaking to Ariel about a sunken ship. Until I heard your broadcast today, I thought the use of "cool" was way out line with the vernacular of the time. Apparently not.
Regarding mid-nineteenth century usage of "cool," I suspect many will recall Ralph Waldo Emerson's remark in Representative Men (1850):
Life is eating us up. We shall be fables presently. Keep cool: it will be all one a hundred years hence. Life's well enough, but we shall be glad to get out of it, and they will all be glad to have us. Why should we fret and drudge? Our meat will taste to-morrow as it did yesterday, and we may at last have had enough of it.
The word "cool" is the most overused and over-abused word in the American language. It is often the ONLY positive adjective that some people use, showing a complete poverty of language.
When I hear someone use that word, especially all the time, my regard of the person drops dramatically. It always feels like the person is trying to hard to be ..... cool. (Snore.)
And I find it to be overly patronizing to youngsters.
I once wrote in a personal profile that I avoided 4-letter words, especially "cool."
Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm
your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the
right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the
Comment Guidelines before
By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's
It's your neighborhood, your city, your country, your world, and now your website. Brian Lehrer delves into the issues and links them to real life.