Tuesday, January 4, 2011

So have you noticed?

I listen to NPR and I'm struck by how often people begin a statement with "so." It occurs less often in print, although I've done it before in this space to give the blog more of an informal quality, a sense that we're having a continuing conversation.

But the usage of so that I'm hearing is by people who are simply answering questions. They don't need the transition that so provides. The word seems to serve as a starter, something to break the silence as they form their response.

You've got to admit, so is better than uhm or you know.


I had an English prof in college who used random words not only to get going but to keep going. As I attended his lectures on Shakespeare I began to hear "it was" in places where the phrase didn't fit. He might say, "Scholars consider Richard II one of Shakespeare's early plays but - it was - we can see hints of his later work."

This instructor had a stammer that was so severe at times he would appear on the verge of choking. Gradually I realized he used it was when he felt a stammer coming on.

You might think this speech characteristic would have ruined his effectiveness as a teacher, especially a teacher of Shakespeare, but it proved no impediment. He earned a reputation as one of the college's top lecturers.


While we may not stammer or stutter, most of us have trouble pronouncing certain words or phrases, but some preparation can help us avoid the problem.


Anonymous said...

I find it really annoying, and it seems to be spreading like crazy. Love to know where it comes from.
John Ettorre

Mike said...

Where did it come from? Good question. Probably the younger generation.

Hey, good to hear from you.