Let’s settle the debate once and for all. Is the correct term to use, when referring to, say, The Prodigy‘s first album, ‘old school‘, or is it ‘old skool’?
For years, I have tended towards the former – as a journalist I just can’t deal with that ‘k’ in place of the ‘ch’. But the use of the term ‘old skool’ to refer to old dance music, rap, hip-hop etc persists to this day, which has led me to do a bit more digging.
First, let’s look at the word ‘school’.
Going back to the original etymology of the word; it appears to come from Ancient Greece, where it had two meanings, the first, obvious one, which refers to ‘a place in which lectures are given’. The second, however, is more intriguing: it also means ‘leisure’, or a ‘place in which leisure is employed‘.
Thus, when people refer to the ‘old school’/’old skool’ in a musical sense, they could be said to be referring to both the old ‘teachers’ of the scene (e.g Run DMC in a hip hop context) as well as the ‘leisure time’ associated with the scene (lounging around in Adidas gear, I suspect).
But why ‘skool’? Other than being a simple mutation of the word ‘school’, is there more to this particular spelling?
The Urban Dictionary has a novel interpretation, suggesting that the term ‘old skool’ is actually referring to ‘old’s kool’, or ‘old is cool’, meaning that anything from back in the day is favourable. Interesting.
Further research would indicate that perhaps the use of ‘skool’ instead of ‘school’ (in a pop-culture context at least) can be traced back to a big selling video game of 1984 for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 – Skool Daze. (More recently, shoemaker Vans co-opted the phrase ‘old skool’ for its classic sneaker range.)
The year 1984 is significant in hip hop as well; it was the year in which Run DMC released the original It’s Like That, Newcleus unveiled Jam on It and Doug E Fresh was Just Having Fun.
Anyway, regardless of whether you prefer ‘school’ or ‘skool’, I suppose the moral of the story is that things were almost DEFINITELY better back in the day…
I’m off to get some Alka-Seltzer, this whole debate has given me a headache. Or should that be ‘head-ake’?
[Kudos to Adam Gomez for the YouTube upload, image from 123rf.com]