When did “cool” become uncool? By Deb Lisa

Raise your hand if you remember a few years back when every person in America with a TV set was wandering around pointing at objects and exclaiming, “That’s hot!” Yes, folks, thanks to the great wordsmith Paris Hilton, America had a new catchphrase.

Today, I was sitting in one of those spectacular vibrating chairs, getting a pedicure, and flipping through US WEEKLY, noticing a significant lack of Paris Hilton. Not that I miss her. It just struck me that she’s not making as many appearances in the pages of my favorite gossip magazines as she used to. “That’s sexy!” didn’t catch on the way “That’s hot!” did, and the poor girl hasn’t been engaged in weeks. Maybe (gasp!) months.

Anyway, an hour later, I was sitting on the couch at home with my three-year-old daughter watching Schoolhouse Rock. We were singing along to “Interjections!” and at the appropriate moment, we both sung out “Hooray!”

It occured to me at that moment that you just don’t hear “hooray” as much as you used to. And I started wondering, do words actually go in or out of style?

I think they do.

Thanks to Candace Bushnell and books on the front table sporting designer shoes and bubblegum pink covers, “fabulous” has reached it’s peak of popularity. “Cool” was cool for awhile, and then it became uncool, and now, I think it might be cool again. I’ll have to check with my 16- and 14-year-old nieces, Lizzy and Cassie to be sure. (As I, sadly, am too uncool to know for sure.)

“Swell” wasn’t cool for thirty years, until a couple of smart women attached it to funky dishtowels and martini shakers, and suddenly “swell” was swell again.

Cigarettes used to be “fags” , “gay” used to be happy. Still is, I guess, although one meaning now drastically overshadows the other one.

And I had many, many discussions with my agent about whether or not the main character in my novel, Fifteen Minutes of Shame would say “crap!” or something a little stronger. (Really.) My thinking was that she’d say crap because 1) she’s Southern, and 2) “crap” in my opinion, is the most genteel of all the swear words. My agent, on the other hand, was older than me by about twenty years, and from NYC; She thought “crap” was passé.

New words come into favor or existance because we need them, and try as you might, you’ll never find an acceptable substitute for “boy toy” or “spamming” or “High Fructose Corn Syrup” in Ye Olde English dictionary.

I am fond of words. I like running across an old favorite I haven’t used in a while, like “serendipity” or “effervescent” or “flatulance”. Some words simply go out of style because they are mean, or degrading, and we as a society have managed to learn another lesson about the power of our words to influence or hurt. We put these words to rest intentionally.

But what about words like “swell”? Or “goober”? Or “Dy-no-mite!” Why do these words lose their charm?

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Lisa Daily is a real-life TV dating expert on Daytime. She's a syndicated relationships columnist, a popular media guest seen everywhere from MTV to the New York Times, and the author of the bestselling dating advice book, Stop Getting Dumped! : All you need to know to make men fall madly in love with you and marry "The One" in 3 years or less. Visit lisa online at www.lisadaily.com

18 thoughts on “When did “cool” become uncool? By Deb Lisa

  1. You goober! Okay, so why is the word “lesbian” linked to this posting? Do you know something about Paris Hilton that we don’t? Must consult my People Magazine for update ;-D .

    I sorta like the word “doofus” but no one uses doofus any more. Perhaps we can try to trend it up (don’t you have when someone verb-izes a noun? he he he)

  2. I’m fond of “dolt” and I just have never stopped using “cool”, whether it’s cool or not. I guess I can handle being in and out of fashion all the time, since I tend not to notice!

  3. Great post! I love words. I’m not as fond of bugs and I can never remember which is which, etymology versus entymology. I use nifty a lot. And wicked, but I’m from Massachusetts, so that’s my birthright. I could also use “wicked pissah” but Boston College would pull my diploma. I’ve never used “the bomb” having completely missed that stage since no Muppets ever uttered it on Sesame Street. I’m sick to death of HOT. I will always love cool. Deb Ball is COOL, wicked pissah even! 🙂

  4. I think we should bring back both “swell” AND “Goober.”

    And I love that you had conversations with your agent about the word “crap.” 🙂

  5. Everybody — thanks for the great comments. As for the lesbian tag: Sorry, I posted at midnight last night — In my late night state of mind, the whole gay/gay/lesbian thing made more sense.

    On conversations with my agent: normally I don’t discuss my word choice, but I’d written nine chapters and a proposal, and we were getting ready to submit it to my editor. My agent read over the proposal, took issue with the word, and for the purposes of the proposal, we changed every “crap” to something else. (Usually Sh*t) Once the book was sold, I paid close attention to “crap” in the media to figure out whether or not my choice of words was too old-fashioned. Turns out, “crap” is making a comeback. Lindsay Lohan, in fact, uses “crap” throughout her movie JUST MY LUCK. Call me crazy, but I think if anybody is up to date on her swear words, it’s Lindsay.

    Fans of “crap” will be pleased to learn that the final version of FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME does indeed, use the word “crap” as main character Darby’s obscenity of choice. (As it is mine.)

  6. Hey, hey, hey. Cut the crap here, ladies. If I’m not mistaken, it’s Eileen’s birthday today, right? HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR EILEEN! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!
    (and if you’re not the bksp eileen having the birthday, oops!)

  7. I love crap (except when my children use it). And I’m pretty sure cool IS back because the last time I used it, my teen-aged daughters didn’t roll their eyes at me. From their world: “Emo” is big and “hey” is still the way to answer the phone and there’s a word for boyfriend and/or girlfriend (I’m not sure) but when they get home I’ll post it… Anyway, GREAT post! Really fun, Lisa!

  8. I invented a word using crap: The Crapisode. It’s an autism thing. Use your imagination. Bathroom. Crap. Child. Smeariness. Which rhymes with weariness coicidentally. 🙂 LONG LIVE CRAP!

  9. Gail,

    ooh, ooh, me! me! Usher had a song called My Boo a couple of years ago.

    I’m still a geek. (Wait, is geek still a word?)

    Kim,

    I have a three-year old, in the (hopefully) final stages of toilet training, I feel for ya, girl. Hang in there.

  10. It’s not my birthday- but I’ve heard there are many Eileens. I feel compelled to bring words back. Lately I’m trying out “dandy.” As in “that would be dandy.” Thus far it has not caught on.

  11. So I come on here at night, expecting a lovely post about magazines and newpapers, and get caught up in what seems like a thread that got lifted from a BDSM online chatroom! Wowzers…. I was going to comment on the line, ” I like running across an old favorite I haven’t used in a while, like “serendipity”, or “effervescent”, or “flatulance”. Well, Deb Lisa, I don’t know about what happens in your house, but in my house, when Deb Danielle runs serendipitously across some effervescent flatulence, I’m not sure it triggers fond memories.

  12. Charming Michael,

    I laughed so hard at your post, it brought tears to my eyes. (Just as, I’m sure, your effervescence brings tears to Deb Danielle’s.)

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