Friday, February 8, 2013

"The thing you have to understand about Bing Crosby is that he was the first hip white person born in the United States"

Artie Shaw said that. The other thing you have to understand is that sometime in the early 1960s "being cool" came to be a more admired virtue than "being hip". The shift had been coming since the war but it was only in the 1960s that cool triumphed over hip everywhere.

That may seem puzzling at first as we sometimes use the words as if they meant the same vague but good property. But ask yourself this, would it be cool to say "I'm hip"? Or, would you describe a cool person as hip? The answer is, only if you were sure your listener would grasp the irony you intended.

I could say a whole lot more, and probably will beginning next week. For now, though, a couple of reminders.

This is what cool sounds like:

This is what hip sounds like (in a suitably uncool video):

Final thought, has hip come back? Well, not yet but when I see articles using eliminationist rhetoric such as "Why the hipster must die: A modest proposal to save New York cool", it's pretty obvious that the purveyors of cool are starting to get nervous.

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