Thursday, September 29, 2011

That's cool. No, that's kewl

The OED's latest online update has ruffled a few prescripivist feathers (again) by including kewl, "an affected or exaggerated pronunciation of cool".

A few months ago, elderly wing commanders in Surrey (and other Telegraph readers) were appalled to discover that the OED had included internet acronym LOL and vaguely blasphemous initialism OMG in its pages, so it's not as if the OED isn't used to causing a bit of controversy. But as Graeme Diamond, chief editor of new words, explains, adding words to the OED is not about trying to change the language but reflect actual usage: "You have to show that the word has been in usage for a decent length of time and, most importantly, that the word is used and understood by a wide audience".

from http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/107/next-essay-sidebar.html
Cool itself, in its original spelling, is a tenacious piece of slang that has been knocking around for a very long time, much longer than its groovy and rad  brothers as the slightly unscientific but helpful graphic on the right shows.

Michael Quinion has written about cool's development as a slang term here, and there's more from the British Library here, but it's clear that if cool is still evolving, with new uses and spellings, it's a healthy word in a healthy language.

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