How Cool Is This?

man working on cool calculations
One of my least favorite things is the phrase “How cool is that?” 

That’s partly because I have an Aspie’s inclination to take rhetorical questions seriously.  I try to answer them.  (My answers to “what’s happening” were especially tragic.)

“How cool is that” is a special challenge for someone with an Aspie’s inclination because, let’s be fair, someone with an Aspie’s inclination has no idea what cool is.  Even when they study it as a hard working anthropologist.  

But I think “how cool is that” is stupid even as a rhetorical question.  Spoken in the recent New York Times TV spot, it just begs for a smart alecky answer.  And besides that the Grey lady should associate herself with a phrase like this is just sad.  By which I mean, not cool at all. 

My friend Leora Kornfeld recently told me that she thinks this is a phrase delivered by people who are trying extra hard to be cool.  I like this explanation because it means the speaker isn’t cool and this raises the charming possibility that they are not asking a rhetorical question after all. They really want to know.  Happy, happy.  “How cool is that” is a question looking to get exactly the answer I’m looking to give.

Now when someone says “how cool is that?” I intend to tell them.  “Forty percent.”  “Very cool except in Scandinavian countries.”   But of course, the right answer is: “you’re asking me?”


Me working on my cool metrics.  There’s a lot to consider.

9 thoughts on “How Cool Is This?

  1. Mary Schmidt

    If you think you’re cool, you’re not. But, then, if I think I’m not cool, does that make me cool? But, I’m aware I’m uncool, but think that’s cool…ahhhhh!

    And, then there’s the “so uncool, they’re cool” thing. William Shatner, Tom Jones and that godawful body bag/condom Snuggi thing that’s sweeping the nation come to mind.


  2. Rick Liebling

    Don’t get me started on the NY Times commercial. Their painfully transparent attempts to appeal to a young, ethnically-diverse audience would have been better had they used real NYers and not gone to central casting.

    “How cool is that” also exposes the spot creators as having a tin ear. It’s funny, just recently a colleague and I were noting how perfectly the site F*ck You Penguin (which, by the way, is genius) alerts readers that it is now on Twitter:

    “You can follow this shit on twitter now. I know, right?”

    Brilliant and pitch perfect. The “I know, right?” breaks the ‘4th wall’ and actually places the site authors alongside their readers. Hard to imagine the NY Times identifying so closely with their readers.

  3. Charles Frith

    I’m bored stupid with the adjective I used to use every five years or so. Genius.

    I think ‘heads up’ is patronising lingo for “I don’t share this with everyone”.

    and there are more that juys by repeating, fails to ameliorate what is evidently class A business bullshit.

    Actually when Lehman, Goldman, Fannie and Freddie paused to catch their breath after the saved by a whisker Wall Street Clusterfuck; I did think to myself perversely “how cool is that”

    Maybe it’s a British thing.

  4. Candy Minx

    Shhh…don’t tell anyone, but I am an expert on cool. I would not ever say “how cool is that?”. It sounds like something a parent of a 14 year old says…desperately trying to bond and be hip with their kid. As an expert though…I can assure you Grant…you are cool. Cheers! Candy 🙂

  5. Christopher

    ‘How cool is that?’ has the false familiarity of a 1980s PSA. An attempt to use down-generational lingo in order to bridge some perceived divide. It sounds forced and campy. It’s not a natural phrase. It rings of middle-aged copywriters.

  6. Rick Liebling

    Sure we could continue to mock the NY Times ad, but let’s let the professionals do it.

    The smart folks at Undercurrent just pointed me to this bit of comedy gold:

  7. Chelsea

    No one would say how cools is that, if they were actually cool. Its a matter of fact. Has anyone noticed that exclamations from cool people tend to roll off the tongue, while “how cool is that!” seems to get stuck somewhere…its too staccato

    Just saying!

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