You're Misusing the Word 'Cool'

It does not mean what you think it means: Seth Stevenson
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2013 1:14 PM CDT
A row of iPhone 5c phones are on display at the Apple Store on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, the first day of sales for the phone.   (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

(Newser) – You think your iPhone or tablet is "cool"? Think again. Silicon Valley has "co-opted" the term and "hordes of techies" are misusing it, but let's remember its origins, suggests Seth Stevenson on Slate. It used to mean "not giving a f--k," and coolness was signified by disengagement and aloofness. The dark sunglasses signaling distance, "a level of icy remove." The dangling cigarette proving your "indifference to the Surgeon General’s warnings, to societal opprobrium, to death itself."

Being cool didn't mean being a hater or wearing all black—it just meant not caring what other people think. See Prince, who wears crazy outfits because he "doesn't give like 12 f---s. Indifference emboldens eccentricity. Eccentricity is cool." But when techies use the word "cool" for things like an iPad app, they're saying it's "cool to gush with enthusiasm. It’s cool to be engaged and accessible and to post needy social media messages. It’s cool to get up on a stage and claim that your new device is going to change the world." And while none of those things are bad, none of them are cool, either. The way we've been using the term these days, even "cool's not cool anymore." Click for Stevenson's full column. (Read more vocabulary stories.)

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