Why do some words move from slang to permanent? What makes people continue to use the same heretofore slang through the decades? Yes, friends, one of those language loops is running through my head again.
The slang that comes to mind as cross-generation is “COOL.” This word surfaced in the 50’s and had a slightly different meaning (although related) before it morphed to its current definition.
Cool—A restrained approach to music. A superlative which has gained wide acceptance outside of jazz. That cat Miles Davis plays some cool jazz.
Some 50’s terms that didn’t make it to our time include groovy, hip, pad (home), split (leave).
By the time we arrived at the 60’s, cool meant nice with “bitchin” adding emphasis meaning good, exciting, awesome. Nice is pretty much the meaning that has stuck from here on out. However, bitchin didn’t outlast cool.
The 70’s added “cool beans,” which was the reply to something that is cool and I’ve actually heard college students say this. By now, you could add any other word to “cool” and it was a good thing. Slang that didn’t make it to the permanent lexicon include copacetic, dig, skinny (what’s the skinny?).
From the 80’s, you probably never hear primo, yello (for hello), trippin’, or schweet (sweet). And remember “tubular?”
We didn’t keep fly, dead presidents (money), or all that and a bag of chips from the 90’s. When I researched slang of the 2000’s, I read that the culture of the 90’s and 2000’s were similar, so except for computer and text acronyms, not much had been added.
Slang has given culture humor, personality, and immediacy. Perhaps that’s why much of it changes from decade to decade. But cool is always cool. And, in studying the subject, there are other words that started out as slang that have been retained.
To close the circle, why does some slang move from slang to permanent? What makes people continue to use the same heretofore slang through decades? What do you think?