That is Cool

There are a handful of people who get all sorts of quotes attributed to them on the internet – Churchill, Twain, Lincoln, Edison – and partly it’s because they did come up with a few zingers in their lifetimes, so if you’re just taking a wild guess, the same way if you’re playing trivial pursuit and it’s some question about a famous baseball player and you don’t know the answer, you might as well just say ‘Babe Ruth.’ Every now and again, you’ll be right.
Well, today somebody posted a Lincoln quote: “In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!” I thought, well, that sounds like a Lincoln quote, and it is brilliant logic, and it is totally applicable to our times. But that little phrase in the middle, that ‘That is cool,’ threw me a little bit. I had always thought that ‘cool’ used to mean good, as in “Wow, that’s cool!” or even just O.K., as in “No problems, dude. It’s cool” had come into the language in the 1950s.
So, I looked up the Cooper Union speech, and there it is, Lincoln did say exactly that, and then I got busy with the old google machine and started searching the etymology, and I wasn’t that far off. First usage, they said, 1930s. Although Shakespeare once talked about ‘reasonable and cool logick’, that’s not exactly the same thing.
So, Abraham Lincoln, user of the telegraph, builder of railroads, and reader of Marx, Darwin and Stowe, was a man ahead of his time, even when it came to slang. That is cool.

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