Cool is no longer cool ... what was once hip is now a lukewarm version of its former self.

Cool was born within the African-American population of the United States. It grew out of the slave era, from a time when signifying, using language and style, was a way to voice their resistance in world dominated by white America.

With the coming of the jazz age, cool was given a name and with it the notion that if you had to explain cool then you clearly did not understand and those who did not say they were cool were often the coolest cats of all.

The story of the birth and death of cool, as outlined by Ted Gioia in the book of that name, makes a strong case for cool no longer having the meaning it had in the 1950s.

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The author does not pinpoint an exact date of death but suggests that once cool reached the 1980s, it had already been lost to the mercenary aims of marketing companies.

His book ends at 2009, marking what he describes as the post-cool era where the grasp of consumerism had wrung the life out of cool in the search for profits against a developing resistance to superficial style.

The post-cool direction looked towards authenticity and for something real. Once this became a "thing", big business attempted to co-opt this as the new mechanism to persuade people to buy their products.

Again, corporations managed to sabotage their own marketing ploys by doing tricks such as disguising new music as something created by a lone artist in a dingy bedsit when, in fact, it was completely engineered and funded over many months by a major label.

While this contrived image was readily sold on social media to punters, companies missed the ironic recoil that the same medium could easily exposed such fakery and people walked away in search of something more honest.

Music fans didn't mind music funded by major labels provided this was declared up front instead of pretending it had simply come into being because of the sheer force of some one's talent.

Now we are well past post-cool. In a time when fake news makes the news and empty gestures are everywhere, there is a need to give this new era an appropriate handle.

The first thought that came to mind was the expression "hot" as in the way we would urgently point out to a small child that the stove or fire is hot and should not be touched.

Initially going from cool to post-cool then straight to hot seemed a short cut without a lukewarm phase in between, but then it became apparent that in a time when nearly anything and everything, like a fire, has become too hot to touch, it might be the right tagline.

As people pull back from social media platforms for fear of being burned by trolls or having their values (or houses) attacked and set on fire by those who disagree with them, it seems that we have indeed entered into the realm where many things are becoming too hot to touch.

Once we might have admonished the hot heads around us by telling them to "keep their cool" but now there is no cool to be kept, the heat is on and we see it in road rage, wild and violent responses to even the most minor of matters, dangerous conspiracy theories, the proliferation of fake news, death threats and hate-mongering across the internet.

Don't touch – HOT.

Some readers will remember the call to "stay cool till after school" and wonder where the cool went. It has been beaten out of shape and now it has become too hot to handle.

*Terry Sarten is a writer, musician and social worker — feedback: tgs@inspire.net.nz