Tuesday, February 11, 2014
So it goes
So close to being a replacement for "uh" or "um," except for its quirky new useless use.
So, lately I've heard more and more people begin sentences with the word "so."
So, usually these sentences are explanations. So, most often they're spoken by professionals in some discipline, explaining things to reporters on National Public Radio. So, sue me: I don't get around much anymore.
So, (a correct use of "so," by the way, meaning "for example"), a reporter may ask a science expert, "What allows the cuttlefish to hide by mimicking the texture of its surroundings?" and the expert more and more begins the answer: "So, we've found certain receptors within the skin that send signals to the cuttlefish's blah blah blah …"
"So" is so (another correct use, as an adverb to qualify this next word) superfluous in this sentence. So, "We've found certain receptors" is a mighty fine way to begin a sentence, so why not leave out "So?"
So, what's going on?
So, my theory is that some condescending expert sometime in the last year — speaking to the news media, no doubt — began a sentence thusly to mean, "Let me walk you through this, pea-brained reporter who keeps asking such childish questions."
So it caught on, because other experts heard other experts using it, and decided it must be the norm because they're all so smart.
"So" is really "um," with a master's degree, a tonal cue to help someone release the clutch and engage the brain and start talking. So that's all.
So, the preferred use of "so" in the cuttlefish case would be as a conjunction, a "therefore," an "as a result:" "The cuttlefish can't hide by color alone, so over time the cuttlefish evolved to have sensors and sensitive muscle fibers to blah blah blah …"
So it's akin to one of the other new abominations of English by people who should know better, namely "going forward," which is a stupid phrase that smart people use to mean the future, when verb tenses already do that job, have been doing the job for centuries. So just about every NPR and ESPN anchor, for example, uses this phrase, because they're all so smart and time is a variable concept in news and sports, apparently.
"So" is a distant relative to the horrendous "look," used by self-described experts, namely politicians and political analysts. So, "look" means, "I know the truth, even if I don't, even if it isn't, and I will explain it to you because only I have the capacity to know this stuff until I tell you." So, whenever you hear a windbag begin a sentence with "so," stop listening.
"So" is also a screenwriter's crutch, the word one character says when in an awkward conversation and none of the partners know or like one another. "So" is not used in such real-life settings.
So I forgive the use of "so" which I blame on the TV comedy "Friends," in which characters began saying things like, "I'm so not going there," or "I so need a vacation," using "so" as emphasis. "So" in this case became a tag for "I'm so young and hip," the corollary being, "You are not young and hip when you don't say "so" this way."
So, I don't hear "so" so much in other real-life conversations, to begin sentences — just enough to convince me it's spilling out of nerd-pop media and into the streets. So keep an ear out for it.
So freakin' annoying!