So …

A new verbal tic has appeared — “So …” I’m not sure how or exactly when it came to be, but I’ve recently noticed that peopleĀ  now begin the answer to almost every question with “So….” I hear this when people are interviewed on the local news. I hear this from panelists on radio shows or podcasts like “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” or “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” (That’s an interesting juxtaposition of shows, by the way.)

There’s something different about this one. Most of the verbal tics that have appeared in recent years have originated, or at least spread widely, by teenagers. I’m referring to “like,” “I mean,” “all” and similar annoying monstrosities as in “He’s like so stupid. I mean he’s all like ‘Why’d you do that?’ and I’m like ‘Whadda ya mean?'” Another one that bugs the hell out of me is the use of an objective case pronoun (or two) for the subject of a sentence as in “Me and him couldn’t agree.” Generally adults don’t fall prey to these.

This new one, however, seems to have taken hold in educated adults. At least it’s only at the beginning of each sentence and not scattered throughout, which makes it slightly less annoying. It still makes the speaker sound like an airhead, though. As a writer, I find it useful to identify these verbal tics so that I can immediately convey the idea that a character is stupid, lazy, or both by having them talk this way.

The word “so” has an actual meaning, several, in fact. As a conjunction it usually implies causation. “It was cold outside so I put on my coat.” As an adverb it suggests the extreme, similar to the word very, as “It’s so hot today,” but usually it implies causation in that use too, since one expects that phrase to be followed by a “that” phrase. “It was so hot that I had to remove my coat.” It can correctly be used as the answer to a question where that causation is implied. “Why did you put on your coat? So that I wouldn’t be cold.” But it’s not a general space filler. For example, “Q: Tell us a little about yourself. A: So, I grew up in New York …” I hear this constantly now and if you do it, you sound stupid, at least to word nazis like me. I’ve discovered I’m not the only one who has noticed this and deplores it, so, no, it’s not just me. It’s #SoAnnoying to a lot of people.

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