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When there were far fewer people around, far fewer laws and regulations, when the legal speed limit was 75 mph, when gas was cheap, when driving was a pleasure, if you owned a hot machine you could point the grill down an empty road and go!

Smooth


A smooth car from the cover of the April, 1952 issue of Hot Rod Magazine.

Today everyone from TV anchor people to college professors use the word "cool" to describe a person, place or thing. It springs easily to the lips, and of course part of the reason it's used is because it reflects well on the user, indicating that he or she is cool. It's an example of a word that is overused, until it has no effect.

Cool probably dates from the late 1950s, from the Beatnik era, when it did gain currency. But early in the decade it was not used as I recall. I remember people saying "smooth" something that would later be called cool. Hot rods and custom cars were smooth, and they were: no excess trim, no spot lights, louvers or flames to interrupt the car's lines. My friend, Norm Cahill, always described a good-looking car as smooth. He also used it to describe articles of clothing or a certain guy. It also described Norm, who always wore a white T-shirt, white pegged cords and either Armishaw saddles or highly-polished smooth-toed cordovans. “He's a smooth cat,” Norm would say, or about a moment of time, "smooth."
Copyright 2008, Albert Drake and Flat Out Press.
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