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Cool Beans is a common expression that is often said when something cool happens or if something is particularly cool. It is considered one of the greater ironies of modern life as it is rarely or never said by cool people. In fact saying "cool beans" immediately makes you the opposite of cool. While saying cool beans makes you un-cool, it does not necessarily mean that the thing you called cool beans, itself is un-cool. In other words, it is not always a reflection on the thing you are referring to.
If you say U2 is "cool beans", it means you are not cool because you said cool beans. However this does not automatically mean that U2 is not cool. However, in this case, the object, U2 is immensely not cool at all. U2 is obscenely un-cool in every way and Bono seems to do everything he can to be less and less cool every day.
Say you are at a party with super models and football players and South African surfers and you say cool beans. Again, you automatically label yourself one giant loser. But this doesn't mean the party is not cool. In fact, it sounds like a fresh ass shin-dig that everyone would want to go to. The party was most likely very cool and we ought to find out what you were doing there...if you called it cool beans which we hope you didn't.
A rare kind of bean, the cool bean is only found in places where people are unable to stop commenting on things and in particular, in locations where people are bored, lame or bored and lame. The origin comes from a french term brought to America in the 70s when French people admitted that America had something to add culturally to the world, including parties that didn't revolve around everyone else's opinions and mainly people having fun, being themselves and very very very large budgets to fund extravagant CD recordings, block buster films and world wild publishing sensations. The old rick with money came to the US and hung out at parties giving their opinions about everything. No one knows when exactly they stopped being invited to these parties but a horrible legacy of their brief stay is with us today. The term "cool beans" which French hipsters said a lot and some how caught on. This however does not explain why the term is still used decades later. No one knows why people still say it. This is still the case even after it has been proven time and time again that it is a lame phrase used only by lame people, or on rare occasions, really cool people using it ironically. Its one utility is that it gives anyone conscious of what is cool, to know what is not cool, based on if someone says "cool beans" or not.
But also, some cool people do say cool beans if they are from certain places, such as small towns in Buckinghamshire.
Cool beans comes from a mis-translation of the verb coer which means something along the lines of "that is something that emits interesting vibes". Coer comes from a song by the Frisians (a Germanic minority in the north of Holland and Germany who speak a language akin to English, though incomprehensible to the English). The song is about a bird that doesn't care about life and instead hangs out, does its own thing and says whether it likes stuff or not. The song suggested that this bird was judging everyone.
The French completely missed this and adapted the "kooh" into "coer," as though it was a good thing to tell people all the time if you approved of something or not. As boring as this is, the linguistic history is even more so, the sort of thing you would have to listen about at parties where Frisians are invited and wind up arguing about phonetic changes and lexical modifications. This mistranslation of a one-hit Frisian wonder band from the '70s left us with the irritating phrase and we have Francophones to blame.
It is no coincidence that French people started the phrase. They are the nation of cool acting people who have never been, certainly are not now nor could possibly hope to reach any level of coolness. The phrase cool beans, the bastardization of some hip french word caught on in the United States and spread like wild fire for a while, when liberated geeks experimented with being cool.
edit Wall Street Crash
In 1987, a coffee bean delivery vehicle collided with the limo of a very easy going wall street investor. His response was, cool beans. This was the first moment it became official that cool beans was a remarkably non-cool thing to say. Wall street investors, while rich, accessible to lots of cocaine, whores and parties, being machistic and verile: are absolutely the anti-cool of human beings in the world. They are boring, lame, flaky soulless humans who only see things as cool if other people do. That is not the meaning of cool. Something is cool if you assert it to be cool, not copying others in moments of dullness. The reaction of "cool beans" is not only corny, and fluff talk, but also ridiculous. It is an anti-inherent truth. An anti-tautology. Beans exploding out of a truck are never cool beans. It is a waste of food, a lot of stuff to clean up and inconvenient for everyone.
That same day a lot of Wall Street investors lost a lot of money and committed suicide. There was no net loss for anyone (non financially that is).
edit The Future
Various fast food chains tried to market cool food in many ways. When Taco Bell introduced the "cool refried beans mega burrito wrap", it failed instantly and the marketing manager was fired. It is considered one of the most spectacular failure in advertising history, although it did convince George Daniels to stop playing golf.
In 2006 there was a brief controversy surrounding the etymology of cool beans. Some thought to mention that no one cares, but, in fact, that no one cares would be exagerating the definition of the importance of anything in the universe. To say that no one cares if there is life in some seventh dimensional galaxy that we can never see, experience, confirm or in anyway help us in our life time, is far less unimportant than the etymology of cool beans. It might have something to do with the french as mentioned before, but it might also have something to do with the ... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz