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Hot and Cool

June 21, 2018

Author: Bianca Yang
Email: ipacifics@gmail.com

I was thinking to myself a couple of weeks ago: “Isn’t it funny how ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ can mean the opposite thing in some circumstances and mean similar things in other circumstances?”

If the meanings aren’t clear, I’ll spell them out now:
Opposite Meaning
hot – having a high degree of heat or a high temperature
cool – of or at a low temperature

Similar Meaning
hot – currently popular, fashionable, or in demand
cool – fashionably attractive or impressive

I later realized a more subtle distinction between the similar meanings. Hot is used to describe fashionableness that everybody else sees. Cool is used to describe a personal evaluation of attractiveness or impressiveness. If I say, “Python is a hot programming language”, I’m distancing myself from the evaluation of its hotness. Everybody else seems to think Python is hot stuff, based on the latest StackOverflow surveys and on some other industry surveys, but I don’t really have a view on how awesome Python is. To contrast, consider if I said: “Python is a cool programming language”. In this case, I’m imparting a personal view of how great Python is.

If this subtlety is correct, then the similar meanings of hot and cool are just an exterior vs interior evaluation of the popularity of a thing.