Sentence initial “so”
Posted: 21 July 2009 03:47 AM   [ Ignore ]
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How recent is the sentence initial “so” as in “So, I came here because I really wanted to do such-and-such.”

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Posted: 21 July 2009 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Definition 5c in the OED2 (so as an introductory particle) is dated to 1593 in Shakespeare’s poem The Rape of Lucrece, line 330:

So so, quoth he; these lets attend the time.

There are various other uses where so may appear in the initial position in a sentence, but I think this is the one you mean.

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Posted: 21 July 2009 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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In case anyone is momentarily puzzled by the Shakespeare cite lets has the sense of hindrances, obstructions, etc, as in a let in tennis or the legal doublet lets and hindrances.

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Posted: 27 July 2009 03:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ve recently started work on a newspaper with a large number of North American reporters, and I have noticed a habit with them, which I had not come across before, of sentence-initial “so” to mean “as a result” or similar, such as, for example, “So, even as their growing strength helps reduce the severity of the US contagion, global economies are more, not less, susceptible to infection.” My reaction is always to highlight-and-delete ...

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Posted: 27 July 2009 05:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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An introductory particle is not strictly necessary, so it can be deleted in formal writing without loss of meaning. But does help set the tone the writer wishes to achieve, so deletion should be done with care. (Another example where Strunk & White’s advice, in this case “omit needless words,” proves to be bad advice.) It serves additional purposes in speech, such as attention getting or indicating that the discourse is continuing and should not be interrupted.

I’ve mentioned here before in another context that in his translation of Beowulf, Seamus Heaney translates the introductory word hwæt as “so.”

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Posted: 27 July 2009 07:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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If it’s used to indicate or emphasize a causal connection between what came before and what follows (a less formal equivalent to “thus") it’s not really true that omitting it does not change the meaning.

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