Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Chill Out

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 14, 2011

Chill, chill out, chellaxin’ … they all mean the same thing: to calm down and relax. And who doesn’t like to chill out? It’s such a cool term, that there’s a category of electronic music known for its mellow style and mid-tempo beats that’s been around since the early 1990s known as chill out music. And yes, chill out music is part of what dance clubs refer to as “smooth electronica” and “soft techno.”

The Mirror newspaper in London, England ran an article on August 20, 2005 entitled, “Your Life: Guide To Taking A Year Out.” It dealt with those people who take a year off between going to school and moving on to the next phase of their lives by travelling abroad.

India is cheap, thought not always cheerful. However, after the seething humanity of Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta, you can chill out on the golden beaches of Goa.

Back on October 20, 1992 the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, Utah published an article entitled, “Memo to America, Canada: Chill Out.” It began with this comment:

I just made it through Canadian customs. This flag thing had me worried. This was no time to be an accidental tourist, stumbling off an airplane in Toronto. Before World Series Game 2, a Marine — apparently from the Atlanta barracks of “F Troop” — hung the Canadian flag upside down, creating an international incident.

The expression chill out first appeared on the scene in 1983 as a variation of the former expression which was simply, chill.

Back in 1979, the popular hip hop group Sugarhill Gang reworked Ecclesiastes into their hit song “Rapper’s Delight” resulting in this:

now there’s a time to laugh a time to cry
a time to live and a time to die
a time to break and a time to chill
to act civilized or act real ill
but whatever ya do in your lifetime
ya never let a mc steal your rhyme

And Ann Landers, in the March 25, 1972 edition of the Calgary Herald, heard from an unhappy “southern lady” who wrote in part:

My question is, should a wife be concerned about such a mutual admiration society? Should I chill the relationship? Or should I relax and not worry?

Oddly enough, the expression “chill out” and its earlier variant, “chill” don’t appear to go back past the 1970s and Idiomation was unable to find an published version that pre-dates the 1972 version cited. However, that it would appear so easily in a letter to Ann Landers indicates that the use of “chill” meaning to calm down and relax was part of every day language by 1972 means it most likely dates back to the late 1960s.

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2 Responses to “Chill Out”

  1. mutanatia said

    “However, that it would appear so easily in a letter to Ann Landers indicates that the use of “chill” meaning to calm down and relax was part of every day language by 1972 means it most likely dates back to the late 1960s.”
    I’m wondering what you think the average time it takes for an expression to become commonly known is?

    • It depends on a number of things including (but not limited to) what technology looked like at the earliest point I’ve found the idiom published, how long it took to get into the dictionary of the day, how much exposure the general public had to newspapers and books and theater, and historical data.

      For example, in the 1300s, there weren’t as many people who could read and theater wasn’t as popular (or as advanced) as it was by the time Shakespeare came around. In the 1970s, people were into reading newspapers and literature, but still, it took time for new words to get into the dictionary and then become buzz words or be included in idioms. By the time the Internet was in full steam ahead mode, a new word said or written today (ie. muggles in the Harry Potter books) could find itself in the dictionary within 2 to 3 years.

      I hope that answers this question for you, and thanks for being part of the Idiomation family of visitors and followers.

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