In a New York Times piece from 2015, Jonah Berger wrote about the longevity of sensory metaphors.
An interesting piece, and an interesting idea. Fits nicely with stuff I’ve been reading about metaphors in Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By.
I find the piece a little incomplete in its discussion of the word cool, though. The early sense of the word referring to, as the article puts it, “an internal state of calm, almost icy composure,” makes sense in terms of sensory metaphors. But the article notes that the modern sense referring to “style and hipness” has been around since the late 1800s, and I feel like that’s drifted pretty far from its sensory-metaphor roots. Which makes me wonder why it’s stayed current with that meaning for so long.
I don’t have an answer, but all this does remind me that cool is one of the few words for which I can remember how it entered my vocabulary. In high school, I did stage tech, and all of the theatre crowd used cool, and it sounded, well, cool to me. So I picked it up, and have been using it ever since. My impression is that, as the article suggests, it’s still in wide use.
Then again, I still say nifty, so I may not be the best judge of what’s current.