As the name of our site is “Coolio Julio”, we thought it appropriate that we did some research into the origins of this phrase – as if we had nothing better to do.
To start with, I think we can make some straight forward assumptions regarding this wonderful term of endearment. ‘Coolio’ we assume comes from the word ‘cool’. Sherlock Holmes would be rabidly envious of that deduction.
According to linguistic anthropologist Robert L. Moore, ‘cool’ is the most popular slang term of approval in the English language.
Before the 1930s ‘cool’ meant a low temperature to most regular people, but it seems to have diverged into the realms of American-English slang at some point.
The Oxford English Dictionary as part of their definition of the term ‘cool’ allocate its origin to the early 20th century jazz community:
Originally in African-American usage: (as a general term of approval) admirable, excellent. Cf. hot adj. 12c. Popularized among jazz musicians and enthusiasts in the late 1940s
The first recorded example of the term ‘cool’ in a text was in 1933:
1933 Z. N. Hurston in Story Aug. 63 And whut make it so cool, he got money ‘cumulated. And womens give it all to ‘im.
So there we have a starting point. ‘Coolio Julio’ is almost certainly post 1930. But what about ‘Julio’ I hear you scream in desperation.
Julio is the Spanish form of the ancient Roman name ‘Julius’. Julio Caesar? Sounds more like a Brazilian goalkeeper than a Roman empower. But we can be sure the name Julio has been around for some time.
When did Cool become Coolio?
If we consider modern usage of the word ‘Coolio’ there is one standout piece of evidence. Yes, you guessed it, the lovable twig haired rapper of the same name, Coolio. The Compton born musician, real name Artis Leo Ivey Jr. has been using the stage name Coolio for as long as we can remember. His Wikipedia page states he has been active since 1982, and without any evidence of Coolio using any other professional names, the name Coolio must at least be pre-1982.
Mr Gangsta’s Paradise revealed to us in our research a piece of evidence which enlightened us further. Much, much further.
Coolio gave an interview to Nadine White of The Voice, a British national black weekly newspaper, in which he revealed the origin of his professional name.
“My friends taking the mick out of me – going hard on me. I used to try and play guitar.
The only thing I was decent at playing was Jose Feliciano’s version of Light My Fire.
I was picking through it while my mother let my friends in the house. I had the guitar up quite loud, so I didn’t hear them come in. They were standing in the doorway and I had my head down looking at the guitar, and I stopped playing and looked up they were standing there and all started laughing. One of my friends said, ‘Look at him, he thinks he’s Julio Englesias’ (the Spanish singer). My other homeboy said, ‘That’s not Julio, that’s Coolio!’, and they started laughing. Before I knew it, everyone started calling me that, and it stuck from there.”
– Coolio 2017
So there we have it. Coolio’s name was directly inspired by Spanish crooner, Julio Englesias. Showbiz at its finest.
In conclusion, Coolio was a portmanteau of cool and Julio. So we can assume Coolio Julio would have been firt used around the same time. Most likely by the social circle of Mr Coolio himself, some time around the early 1980’s. The decade that just keeps on giving.
Coolio Julio! Say What?