So, Have you noticed the way this little word is creeping in everywhere? All answers to questions on the media are now prefaced by “So . . . “ It’s not even said slowly and thoughtfully now; it just comes out automatically. It has become shameless and ubiquitous.
It’s obviously yet another linguistic habit, and will no doubt die the death of all meaningless expressions, but, in the meantime, I have to listen to it all the time.
Is it being used as a post-modern ironic imitation of the German Gestapo officer in black and white films? “So, ve haf ways of making you listen to this drivel.” I don’t think so.
Does it mark the conclusion of a lengthy and difficult train of thought, in logic, law or science? “So, Watson, it is clear that our young lady could not have had time to sew up the corpse in the mailbag, because my calculation of the time available and the number of telegraph poles passed proves that the train would have been travelling too quickly. Elementary, my dear Watson.”
Or maybe the people who are saying it are spelling it s.o.w. Perhaps they mean, here are my words, cast before you like seed on rough ground; take them into the dark and private places of your mind where they can take root, flower and fruit prolifically.” If so, to mix my metaphors horribly, they are casting their seeds before Gadarene swine.
In fact, it’s no different to er, or um, or well.
Typing that last bit, I have realised I have coincidentally written the name of the writer who railed so vehemently against what he saw as the degradation of the language, George Orwell. Another usage to make it unnecessary for us to think about what we are saying. Orwell would have gone further – he would have said it was designed to make it difficult for us to think properly.
This would be an over-reaction, I hope. It’s only a meaningless sound, used to buy us some time before we say what we mean.
It really shouldn’t irritate me like it does. It makes me sound like a grumpy old pedant. (Some of my friends would describe this as penetrating insight, of course.) I know language is dynamic and always has been. It is one of its fascinations, and long may it be so.
Words change their meanings, and some of them bend and break under the new load that usage piles on them. But we are not talking about meaning here; the new word doesn’t mean anything at all. It is pointless and a waste of breath.
And it annoys me!
So, stop it!