A Conversation for Ask h2g2

So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 1

Hoovooloo


So, the other day I was talking to a friend, and I began a sentence with the word "so".

And he very, very mildly flipped out. He explained that he'd noticed the presence of this tic more and more recently, and it annoyed him.

Irritatingly, it appears that this annoyance is contagious, because I've gone from being an oblivious infectee and perpetrator to one of the annoyees.

I've noticed it on television and radio, even and especially on BBC Radio Four, on programmes like "In Our Time" - respected academics will begin an introduction to the life of Socrates with the words "So, he was born in..." and so on.

When did it start? Where did it come from? Why is it so common?

And how can we stop it, short of taking everyone who does it to the end of Lytham St. Annes pier and shooting them through the chin with a crossbow?


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 2

KB

I first noticed it becoming common with Seinfeld's show back in the '90s, but I'm not sure that's where it started.


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 3

Otto Fisch ("Stop analysing Strava.... and cut your hedge")


I wonder if there are different versions of this.... Think it's American in origin, in at least the first version?

Version 1: Misuse of "so" in the middle of sentences to add emphasis, as in:

"That's so not happening"
"That's so not your colour"
"I am so not"

Version 2: Apparently redundant "so" at the start of sentences:
"So, the other day I was talking to a friend"
"So, he was born in.."

I wonder if this is a kind of narrative device, giving the impression of continuing something already started previously, and perhaps re-summarising. Does it make things sound more dramatic/exciting/immediate?


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 4

~ jwf ~ scribblo ergo sum

smiley - biggrin
Hah so!
smiley - zen
Not wanting to sow the seeds to bring about a hoovoolooistic rampage
I feel obliged to sew up (a stitch in time) this discussion by pointing out
that dictionarydotcom shows SO as having:

18 distinct meanings as an adverb
3 as a conjunction
2 as a pronoun
1 as an interjection
1 as an adjective
and
9 examples as an idiomatic expression

And that's not counting a variant of the musicalnote smiley - musicalnote soh
or the abbreviations for south, Signal Officer, Special Order,
Standing Order or seller's option.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/so?s=t

Other dictionaries offer similar entries but most tend to limit
their synonyms to 'therefore' or 'thereupon' - which, if one
can forgive its apparent overuse lately, makes sense as a
form for moving a conversation (real or implied) forward.
And so on and so forth...

smiley - prof
~jwf~


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 5

Icy North

It may come from German. I've met German speakers who start many sentences with "So!" (or, as we'd pronounce it, "Zo!") It just means "Well!" or "Right!".


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 6

lil ~ Auntie Giggles with added login ~ returned


I thought it might be Irish - 'So it is'

Jim MacDonald said it all the time in Coronation Street smiley - run


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 7

Wand'rin star

I also had it pegged as Irish,so.smiley - starsmiley - star


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 8

Beatrice

So, Hoo's annoying.






smiley - winkeye


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 9

Tavaron da Quirm - Arts Editor

When German speakers start to tell about something or also in the middle of telling something they often put in 'also' sometimes shortened to 'so'. It's one of the things you learn at school: never start a speech with 'also', because automatically we do it.

'Also' doesn't mean what it does in English. It is rather used as something like 'listen here, there's something I have to tell you' or 'and now that I told you all this you have to listen closely, it gets intersting'. 'So' can also be followed by a short pause for more dramatic emphasis before reaching the climax of a story.
Like Icy said 'also' is a usual word too, meaning something like 'therefore'.


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 10

Teasswill

Isn't it one of those words used to draw attention that you're about to say something so your listeners pay heed & hear what you have to say, as opposed to missing the first few words?

Particularly if it's a change of subject.


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 11

Bluebottle

O, let's ditch the S and begin sentences with 'O' instead.

<BB<


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 12

deb - I'm in love with my soup maker & I don't care who knows it

Teasswill: "Isn't it one of those words used to draw attention that you're about to say something so your listeners pay heed & hear what you have to say, as opposed to missing the first few words?"

My husband used to use a word for that all the time, sick of having to repeat everything to his dad. So instead of

J: "Cup of tea?"
B: "Eh?"
J: "Cup of tea?"
B: "Yes please"

it would go

J: "Bo11ox"
B: *looks up*
J: "Cup of tea?"
B: "Yes please"

It made me laugh anyway.

Deb smiley - cheerup


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 13

Sol

There are lots of papers analysing the word 'so' as a discourse marker, which is the use Hoo's describing I think. Here's one if anyone is interested:

http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~gbolden/RussianCA/publications/Bolden09JoP.pdf

A quick trawl of the papers seems to show that it's been studied for quite some time, so I am not sure it is quite as startlingly on the rise as, say, innit, which I thought people were exaggerating about when I was abroad and out of earshot of most native speakers for whole years, but which turned out to be quite as much of a thing as everyone says when I got back. But I could be wrong - it is the sort of thing that creeps up on you.

Interestingly, one of the papers you get when you google 'discourse markers' and 'so' says that while non native speakers use words like well/ like/ innit/ so, especially if they have been exposed to lots of native speakers, the precise ones they use vary according to their native language a bit.

So I throw into the mix the fact that a popular discourse marker in Russian is 'tak' which is, basically, so. I'm not sure it's quite in the same place though - B has dropped it in English now he has been hanging with English speakers a lot. I don't think he says 'so' instead though. But still, it'd be cool to blame Polish plumbers for this too. Did you know Polish is now the leading foreign language spoken in the UK now?


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 14

quotes

>>I've noticed it on television and radio, even and especially on BBC Radio Four.../

I believe the guests are instructed to start a sentence with 'so', in order to make it easier to edit the programme later.


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 15

Sol

This is interesting too: Little Words That Matter: Discourse Markers ‘‘So’’ and ‘‘Oh’’ and the Doing of Other-Attentiveness in Social Interaction (it's a PDF). It says that 'so' is used to introduce topics for the other person's interest/ attention, where as 'oh' is used to introduce tpics about ourselves when we are having conversations. American English, that is.


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 16

Mr. Dreadful - But really I'm not actually your friend, but I am...

I don't start sentences with 'so' as often as I start them with 'anyway' or 'well'.


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 17

Bluebottle

I tend to use 'well' or 'right' to start conversations, but say them quietly. Just as a linguistic run-up before jumping into a discussion, you see.

<BB<


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 18

Sho - unemployed again - Thanks Covid-19

don't a lot of stand up comedians use "so" to start a sentence? I seem to remember Les Dawson doing it.


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 19

Sol

I read the paper (I quite enjoy a bit of discourse analysis). It doesn't talk about origins or whether it is more frequently in use, but the first study of the use of 'so' like this was in the US in 1991 and the UK didn't get to it until 2001, but to be honest I think that might just be because discourse analysis of this type isn't as old as all that itself and it may be that this was just something no one had got around to looking at before that. That paper was in 2009.

It does also reference two dictionary entries though and again the dates are interesting.

"...said in order to get someone’s attention, especially in order to ask him/her a question: So,what do you think of the
school? (Longman Dictionary of American English, 1983:766) in conversations to introduce a new topic: So
how was your day? (Collins COBUILD English Dictionary, 1995:1581–1582)"

So perhaps it is an Americansim.


So, how annoying is this linguistic tic and where did it start?

Post 20

Still Incognitas, Still Chairthingy, Still lurking, Still invisible, unnoticeable, missable, unseen, just haunting h2g2

Can't say I'm bothered myself.It's better than the repetitive 'You Knows' that so many succumb to in conversation. smiley - winkeye


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