By G. K. Werner
So there's this mindless obsession with so.
So does every interviewee’s response, every politician’s thought, every reporter’s topic, every educator’s polemic have to start with so as if it’s a transition that can be indiscriminately used without any hint of a previously related statement, thought, or suggestion whatsoever. Call me a real so-and-so for diagnosing this so highly communicable communication disease, but somebody had to do so. It’s so pandemic.
So what, you ask?
So filler words are fine in their place. OK? Well, almost every language has them. Now, they’re usually banned in formal writing, but perfectly acceptable when used sparingly in conversation among friends, or even in oh so polite conversation among barely tolerable acquaintances.
So I normally appreciate our living, ever-morphing language; and do so work at being so open-minded, so tolerant, so non-judgmental. But this is becoming so fundamentally debilitating, so downright abusive that I fear for the English language’s so-called health and longevity.
So many civilizations have fallen to plagues just so. Egypt’s pharaoh, played by Yul Brenner in Cecil B. DeMille’s epic movie The Ten Commandments, says “So let it be written, so let it be done” so much that Egypt eventually gets done exactly as it was written. France’s Marie Antoinette says “So let them eat cake” so much that her people eventually slice hers. So too, the Soviet Union became the latest victim of so’s assault when so many millions of Russians started asking “So what’s on TV?” These are just a few cautionary examples of a nation’s fate when a conjunction spins radically out of control.
So here’s the skinny on so’s definition and usage. It’s a conjunction, folks. Or an adverb. Or an interjection. Maybe even an exclamation. Not a transition. So get over it! As an adverb, it denotes degree, extent, or amount. It can be a synonym for consequently, likewise, apparently, or indeed; or an expression of astonishment, disappointment, or sarcasm. As a conjunction it is preferably followed by that as in—I always throw in a so so that I have an extra beat to figure out what to say. But may stand alone as in—Everyone’s doing it so I will too. But remember, so makes no sense when nothing precedes it.
So if you must use so as a filler, all I ask is please, please, please—not so often.
So that’s my so-so opinion.
Copyright © 2013 by G. K. Werner. All rights reserved.