Cool: The Signs and Meanings of Adolescence


168 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-0467-9
DDC 305.23'5




Reviewed by Michael Kasoian

Michael Kasoian is an elementary-school principal in Burlington,


Ten years of interviews, observations, and studies have given the author
an interesting and insightful look at the development of adolescent
behavior and the behavioral trait of being “cool.” He identifies the
emergence of coolness as a social phenomena, a process that occurs
through what he describes as “signifying osmosis.” This is a
condition where coolness is acquired by social absorption of attitudes,
behavior, and physical presence. Coolness is seen in the music, ideas,
clothing, language, and body image projected by “teenagerhood.”

Being cool is knowing how to dress to belong, projecting an image
consistent to your peer group, listening to music that is fashionable,
hanging out with a certain group, smoking, partying, and speaking in a
special way. This is Danesi’s idea of social osmosis. Much of this is
reinforced in the media and the high-school environment. The enormous
influence of cliques and group behaviors today can lead to swarming and
other types of violence, and concerns about the future. Though Danesi
sees a need for change, he does not provide any answers. Instead he
offers parents, educators, and teenagers a better understanding of the
growth and development of youth and its implications for the future.


Danesi, Marcel., “Cool: The Signs and Meanings of Adolescence,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,