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Defining cool

Are we still allowed to be cool without dating ourselves or appearing to be unfamiliar with current vernacular? One might reason that my ongoing classroom presence would disclose such information. But it’s absolutely nowhere in the curriculum.

Let’s get one thing immediately out of the way. My life is not spent in fervent pursuit of cool-dom. Of course, I don’t want to be an antique. And as one who relies on language for my craft, it is vital to know what language is current and what’s not.

Several of my sixth graders refer to me as “savage.” While the term initially shocked me, I’ve learned that it’s a compliment. The words “tight,” “dirty” and “gay” have also taken on new (unusual) meanings.

But nowhere have I discovered the destination of cool. Some of my kids play math games that are cool. Consulting a list of synonyms for cool, I find over 400 of them, ranging from “beastly” (one that I have heard) to constipated overweight old lady, to coolio, to far out (sixties, seventies?). Also, on the list are immense, nasty, shiz, straight and many others.

It’s amusing to me that before we had the power of the Internet, we relied on friends, classmates, movies, television and music for the prevailing slang. There’s only one problem. Because the list also contains gnarly and bitchin’, both of which are seriously archaic, how accurate are the rest of the entries? As I tell my kids, it’s a bad idea to copy someone else’s math paper. You never know if the answers are correct or not.

With all that preface, I think I’ll create my own version of cool. It may work out to be something totally far-fetched like spinach or philodendron. But I’ll see how many times I need to introduce the word before I hear it coming back to me. It may be fun.

The other acceptable action is to use the word cool as I always have. Cool is doing the right thing. Cool is keeping promises. Cool is educating. Whether the word is socially savage or not, who’s to say? Shalom.

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