Everything is definitely cool, and chilled we certainly are thanks to the hail being lashed in our faces by a howling wind that cuts straight to the bone.
Currently, the only thing I feel like checking out is if the central heating has been turned up a few notches at home. And as for worries, the principal one is the looming gas bill as a consequence.
But being chilled, cool and having no worries isn’t about the weather or bills. It’s about how we’re being spoken to everywhere from shops to restaurants to hospitals, as a relentless tide of pseudo laid-back slang sweeps over us.
Wherever you go it’s “guys” and “cool” and “chill out” and “no worries”, a deluge of verbal tics that is washing away the time-honoured “Good morning”, “Good evening” and, most of all, the simple “Hello”.
It’s happening more and more often with each passing month, and so I think just as the Chinese bestow a name on each year, so we should give a moniker to 2014 to mark how the cool, chilled and not worried have gained the ascendancy.
It may lack the picturesque earthiness of the current Year of the Horse, or the forthcoming Year of the Sheep, but I’d suggest Year of the Artificially Trendy, or YAT for short.
YAT-speak is everywhere, bleaching out the distinction between genders and introducing a whole new level of babbling gibberish into ordinary conversations. A few nights ago, in a restaurant, the waitress breezed across with an airy: “Hi guys.”
Call me pedantic if you like, but isn’t “guy” slang for a man? And since my companion was female, isn’t calling us both “guys” rather wide of the mark? No matter. Resistance is futile. We can no more turn back this tide of trendiness than King Canute the waves.
The dialogue was a masterclass in YAT-speak. “Are you guys ready to order?” We asked for a few more minutes before deciding. “That’s cool, guys. Just chill and check out the specials on the board.”
She ran through them. YAT-speak had her so in its grip that every one of them was described as cool, even a dish that sounded eye-wateringly full of chillies.
We duly chilled and checked out before deciding what to have. “No worries, guys,” and off she breezed, leaving us wondering why on earth worry should play any part in ordering a couple of meals.
If it all sounds daft in the relaxed environment of a restaurant, in other settings it crosses the line into the lunatic. A few days before being cool, chilled and having no worries about eating out, I took an elderly relative to a hospital appointment.
On arriving at the reception desk, we were greeted with the words: “Guys. Hi.”
Now people turning up at hospital tend to be a little anxious. An air of calm, friendly competence can work wonders in soothing nerves. But greeting an 82-year-old woman leaning heavily on a walking stick like somebody bounding onto a sun-kissed beach with a surfboard tucked under their arm didn’t do anything to put her at ease.
Inevitably, when we’d thanked the receptionist for directing us to the correct clinic, she replied: “No worries.”
It’s rapidly becoming universal. In the run-up to Bonfire Night, I saw a small boy with a shapeless dummy made from a pair of old trousers and a pullover stuffed with rags who had parked himself outside a supermarket. The lad, innocent of all sense of irony, was piping up. “Penny for the guy, guys” at shoppers.
All these verbal tics have been with us for decades of course – “guys” from the United States, “cool” a survivor of hipster slang from the 1940s, and “no worries” from our laconic Australian cousins.
But why they should suddenly have coalesced into the everyday manner of speaking for very many people is a mystery to me. It’s not offensive, and there is no lack of politeness on the part of those fluent in YAT-speak, it’s just rather odd.
Perhaps, the next time I pop into the bank or the local shops, I ought to abandon the lifelong habit of saying “Hello” or “Good morning” and try: “Guys. Cool to see you. I’m so chilled I’m practically deep frozen. No worries.”
It’s possible that the staff, instead of thinking “Here’s that middle-aged bloke again”, will think: “Wow. He’s one trendy guy.” A whole new world could open up.
On second thoughts, it’s probably not a good idea. I can’t somehow see myself ever becoming fluent enough in YAT-speak to appear anything other than a phoney. And that just wouldn’t be cool, guys.