A few years ago when people like Stephen Fry publicly complained about my generation’s use of the upward inflection in our everyday speech I laughed off the complaints as those of grumpy old buffers. The upward inflection brought in from California or perhaps the nation’s watching of Australian soaps Neighbours and Home & Away can be annoying in millennials when they oft mix it with the word like but, on the whole, it’s just a passing trend and nothing to get hot and bothered about.

Which makes me annoyed with myself.

As today’s talking heads are seriously getting on my wick by forever starting answers with the preposition “so”. Government Ministers are at it. BBC correspondents have become infected. I even heard Theresa May the other day starting an answer with “so” and I am afraid I had to switch channels to escape the grate, which is as awful as nails on a blackboard or pottery scraping against pottery to my sensitive ears.

I am ashamed to say I have no tolerance for those who start their sentences with “so”.

When I studied the aberration looking for a source to the horror I was surprised. This has been going on a good while. There were complaints to Radio 5 Live’s Peter Allen in 2011 about this very subject matter, which The Spectator picked up on back then.

In 2014 Fast Company attacked the use of “so” at the start of sentences, claiming it insults your audience, undermines your credibility, and demonstrates discomfort with the subject matter. Hunter Thurman had a good rant claiming that, “Everyone—from CMOs to flip-flop-clad “brogrammers”—does it. It’s like the technorati’s way of starting a sentence with “like.” However, it’s much more than that. It’s actually a damaging tendency. Beginning your sentence with “so” orients your message and subconsciously alerts your audience that what you’re about to say is different than what you’ve been talking about up until this point. There’s a reason we do it. In psychology, it’s what’s known as a “marker.” It’s a little cue to our cognitive mind that says, “Quick, call up that part that we practiced.”

Then a year later Radio 4’s Today Presenter John Humphrys branded “so” a ‘noxious weed’ that invades everyday speech.

Therefore (note the lack of the word “so”) I am not alone in my detestation of this dreadful little word at the start of sentences – there are others like me out there who see the “so” users as linguistic vandals.

I understand that the “so” I hate is the one used too often these days in a discussion to “hold the floor,” or keep one’s side of the conversation going by making some noise between sentences. This is particularly common in public interviews.

It’s in this context that I get so angry with so.

“So” is a wholly unnecessary discourse marker.

So please all learn how to speak correctly.

Meanwhile, you are so annoying.


3 thoughts on “So

  1. “So. Farewell then “So”
    Unbeloved of Alexia
    Of whom I had not heard
    Until today
    Keith’s Mum says “I woz sat”
    I think this is common
    She said I was a “So-and-So”
    Perhaps I am no longer…..

    E.J.Thribb (17)

  2. So. Farewell then So
    It irritates Alexia.
    And is accordingly superfluous
    And otiose
    And unnecessary
    And redundant
    And inessential
    And needless
    And useless.
    R.I.P. So.

    With apoligies to E.J.Thribb (17)

  3. Quote: “….is different than what……” Bingo! you have just combined two of my pet hates in one; that is a truly terrible construction….

    Whether the upward inflection arrived from the US, I don’t know – I always had it pegged as an Australian habit – (and how the Australians and Americans choose to speak and write is their business, not mine…) – but you have fallen into the contemporary habit of using the American “different than”.

    It’s really so simple to get it right; “different FROM” emphasises the divergence of the subjects being compared, and “similar TO” emphasises convergence.

    Using the word “what” all the time is part of the self-conscious attempt of the middle-class to sound more “real/working-class/street/down-with-the-kids” or whatever (as is saying “whatever”….).

    You can hear everyone from Theresa May downward levering the word into their sentences to sound a bit more oiky and get the vote in, when they would normally use “that” or “which”, eg – “The Bill what passed through Parliament…”.

    Gordon Brown’s babyish pronunciation of “says” as, well – as it’s spelt really, rather than as “sez” was also a low point in pandering to passing fashion.

    More annoying than either is the way in which in “wonder” and “wander” have changed places, so that you can hear Radio 4 presenters talking about how they like to “wonder” in the woods (wonder about what ? and why do they have to go to the woods to wonder about it ?) and Radio 2 presenters refer to Elvis Presley’s “The Wander of You”.

    The serious point is that if people can be so easily persuaded to embrace a different way of expressing themselves, and having taken it up, then forget/deny that they ever did it any differently, how can we trust their judgement on important matters ?

    As advertisers, politicians, counsels arguing their case in court, and con-men of all stripes have always known – “People Are Programmable” – and we are in the middle of the ultimate expression of this, where people living in Western civilisation are being persuaded and intimidated into surrendering freedoms built up over a couple of thousand years, and accepting the mass migration of vast numbers of people who oppose our way of life and intend to replace it with a backward, violent, misogynistic, theocratic dictatorship.

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