Cool As a Cucumber

Meaning Of Idiom ‘Cool as a Cucumber’

To be cool as a cucumber means to be very calm; in control of your emotions; to have great self-control; to be self-possessed. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.


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Examples Of Use

“Bruce is the guy you want around during a crisis. He’s as cool as a cucumber.”

“I thought I was going to be nervous when I gave my speech, but once I stepped up to the podium I was suddenly cool as a cucumber.”

“Ronny was cool as a cucumber the whole time his wife was giving birth but afterward he was exhausted and anxious.”

“The lieutenant was cool as a cucumber under fire. He wasn’t one of those trust-fund kids with no business on a battlefield.”

Origin

Used since around 1600.

Besides referring to a fairly low temperature, the word cool can have various meanings in English to do with one’s composure or behavior. It can mean to be calm, free from nervous excitement or energy, to be laid-back, or to be impressive and attractive in appearance and behavior. It can even mean to be unfriendly to a certain person or to show no enthusiasm toward an idea, organization, etc.

This idiom is assumed to be based on the idea that the inside of a cucumber is always cooler than the surrounding air. In fact, this is true. You will find the inside of a cucumber to be up to 10 or 15 degrees cooler than its surroundings. On a very hot day, however, this will not actually feel particularly cool so there is some doubt as to whether this gave rise to the idiom.

Perhaps people noticed this during the 1600s since as early as 1615 Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher used the expression in their play Cupid’s Revenge: “Young maids were as cold as cucumbers..”

In truth, however, the cucumber’s relatives, like the watermelon and muskmelon, are also cool on the inside. This is due to their very high water content. Clearly, cool as a cucumber makes a better idiom than cool as a muskmelon. For more explanation see Culinary Lore.

 

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.