So

BY ALEXIA JAMES

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.

Stop!