||I once read that the word 'cool' was first used in West Side Story. Is that true? Does anyone know anything else about the word 'cool'?|
||So, "cool," qua the slang for "very good" derives from the use of "cool" to describe composed, as in "to keep a cool head" and unpurterbed as "emotionally cool." This use is almost as old as the primary use of the word to refer to state of moderate cold. The abstraction to "very good" I would thus imagine has been carriage for quite some time, as "to keep one's cool" and the like are considered to be very good traits. So, I'd conclude that there would be no definite time in which the pure slang began, though it may very well have risen in popularity and gained a foothold with the Beat movement, in the US of the late 1940's, though even here I suspect there is derivation from the Jazz culture immediately preceding it... and so on.|
Lewis Joplin II
From "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982):|
Keep cool; it will be all one a hundred years hence, "Montaigne," Representative Men, 1850, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
...intellectual, nonemotional jazz was also called "cool jazz" as opposed to the "hot jazz" of the 1920s. It was "cool" or "beat," both meaning unemotional, aloof. "Beat" had meant exhausted, physically and emotionally drained, since 1834; as a verb "to cool" had meant to calm down since the year 1000 and, as an adjective, cool has meant unemotional since the 1830s (Americans have used the expression "cool as a cucumber" since 1836.)
Cool, real cool, crazy, far out, gone, real gone, nervous, weird, wild, in general use around 1950.