On June 18, 2010, I shared a link to this article on Facebook, along with my comment:
Sit through a few IT-related procurements and you’ll hear many iterations of “so” as the intro to a sentence.
Like author Jane Jeong Trenka, I am constantly engaged in what she calls “the subversive act of noticing things.” It’s not really subversive, I suppose, but that phrase really stands out to me. “Noticing things” that are occurring somewhat under the surface of routine daily discourse provides a feast of amusements to toss around mentally.
That is what gets me to so.
Several years ago, I was part of an interview team for a Third Party Administrator (TPA) for Healthy Kids. A portion of each presentation was fairly technical, since the TPA has responsibility for designing and maintaining the computer system that tracks enrollment, billing, eligibility, and other functions of our program. I started noticing the use of “so” as the beginning of a sentence. Sometimes it sort of made sense, such as:
Q: How will you handle the fact that our program’s premiums are based on household size and gross monthly income?
A: So, you have to factor in the household size and gross monthly income.
Other times, not so much:
Q: How was your flight?
A: So, we encountered turbulence on the flight, and otherwise it was good.
There have been other procurements over the years, and in addition to those procurements, I have noticed this usage of “so” as the first word of a sentence in other arenas as well.
Why does it matter, and when does it matter?
My friend Barbara logically asked, “Why do do you have to stop using it? It seems a perfectly good word…”
She is right. I know several people who use it as a normal part of their speech. These are people I care deeply about, who could probably choose several things about my word choices and speech patterns to nitpick about.
It bothers me when it is delivered by a professional individual, who is representing a purportedly savvy, national or international corporation, who relies on it as a crutch. It doesn’t help them.
At a recent set of marathon meetings where another set of potential vendors were presenting to us, I counted the “so’s” in one hour coming out of the lead presenter, who was extremely professional and well -spoken in every other way (remember, I don’t have the Altoids to keep me occupied anymore!):
The Celestial Monochord, which has a cute picture of Ira Flatow interviewing penguins (don’t think they’re in on the “so” phenom), but the article discusses the ubiquitous presence of “so” at the beginning of a whole lot of sentences on NPR interviews.
Those are my thoughts on the topic……hope you consider them more than “so so.”