the oldest surviving slang

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Tue Jul 2 12:25:38 UTC 2002

Surely the ineffective respelling of "cool" as "kule" will help
convince some that a phonetic representation is in order if we want
to know what is going on. I suspect (but cannot be sure) that the
"kule" spelling attempts to offer the same indication of a glide (as
in the "kyule" respelling), but that does not capture what, in fact,
the magazine respelling does ("kewl") which to me clearly points to
the fronting of /u/, a phenomenon sweeping North America.

On the other hand, what is missing in this notice is the pervasive
laxing of /u/ in this lexical item (for speakers who do not show
general conflation of /u/ and /U/ before /l/. Many younger Michigan
speakers, for example, have /kul/ for the temperature but /kUl/ for
the attitude. (We actually teased this distinction out in a
vowel-matching task we gave lots of Michigan undergrads several years
ago in which nearly all matched the vowel of "rule" to the word
"soon," but many matched "cool" to the vowel of "good."

dInIs (too old to front)

>|o| >I always trot out "cool" as the longest-surviving lexical item that
>|o| >has retained its slang categorization.
>Have noticed a morphing of cool among younger people, particularly from the
>west coast.  For 5 years I've seen it in print in west coast based sailing
>magazines (Latitudes & Attitudes and Latitude 38) as "kewl" and hear it
>pronounced like kyule or kule--the k being very softly articulated.  And
>then there is it's kin "way kewl."

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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