Stay cool, boy

By Grant McCracken

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" stupid even as a rhetorical question. Spoken in the recent New York Times TV spot, it begs for a smart alecky answer. And besides that the grey lady should associate herself with someone who thinks this might be a fashionable or interesting thing to say, is, well, come on.

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 account because it means the speaker isn't cool which raises the charming possibility that they are not asking a rhetorical question after all. They really want to know. "How cool is that" turns out to be looking for the response I'm looking to give.

Now someone says "how cool is that?" I intend to tell them. "Forty percent." "Very cool except in Scandinavian countries." "Totally five minutes ago." As your consulting anthropologist, I recommend you try this too.

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