Friday, June 7, 2019

Word of the day: coolth

Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times crossword, by Stu Ockman, traded in rarely used antonyms: couth, gainly, kempt, ocuous, onymous, ruthful. And one more, which was new to me. From Webster’s Second:

coolth (kōōth). n. [cool + 1st -th.] Coolness. Humorous.
Webster’s Third offers a nuanced definition and drops the usage label:
coolth \'külth\ n -S [cool + -th (as in warmth)]: the state or occasion of being cool
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the word to 1547, gives the definition “coolness,” and adds the tags “chiefly literary, archaic, or humorous.” A citation I like, from Tom Taylor (1863): “In pleasant dreams Of English coolth and greenery.”

A later meaning (1748?): “a cold; the common cold. Now rare.” And from 1966:
colloquial (orig. U.S.). Chiefly humorous. The quality of being relaxed, assured, or sophisticated in demeanour or style.
A citation from The Christian Science Monitor (1983): “Music lovers might argue the relative coolth of the newer jazz groups.” Which makes me imagine that in a parallel universe, people might be listening to Miles Davis’s The Birth of the Coolth.

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