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The Oxford English Dictionary Adds "Kewl"

By
Mignon Fogarty,
September 27, 2011

Now in an Oxford English Dictionary near you: "kewl."

"Kewl" is a funky spelling of "cool," and in my experience is pronounced slightly differently. (The OED lists two U.S. pronunciations: /kjul/ and /kul/.) 

"Kewl" may seem new to you, but the OED places its first use all the way back in 1990 in a Usenet group post about the band Jane's Addiction. Its adoption into the  mainstream seems swift: by 1995 it appeared in the serious science magazine New Scientist (albeit in quotation marks). The OED's first example of "kewl" used without quotation marks is in 2007.

The OED still marks "kewl" as slang, which means you shouldn't use it in your annual reports or school papers. Use it anywhere a smiley face would seem appropriate. (The Collins English Dictionary, available through Dictionary.com also includes "kewl." Merriam-Webster's online dictionary does not.)

What do you think? Have you ever used "kewl"? Will it fade away like "phat," "square," and "boogie" or gain a lasting place in the English language like "cool"?

Related ArticleHow Do Words Get in the Dictionary?

Mignon Fogarty is the author of Grammar Girl's 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know

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