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Beginning with “So”
Posted: 05 May 2017 06:45 PM   [ Ignore ]
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In recent years the word “So”, to begin an answer to a question, seems to have become overused and maybe used in a different manner at times. Where did it start, and why? It seems to have taken over the word “Well” in some instances. I found the following article, which answers my question pretty well, but it still annoys the hell out of me, because it is used so much on American news shows today.

http://www.npr.org/2015/09/03/432732859/so-whats-the-big-deal-with-starting-a-sentence-with-so

If this has been discussed, please link.

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Posted: 05 May 2017 07:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The article doesn’t mention Seamus Heaney’s 2000 translation of Beowulf, which begins:

Hwæt we Gar-Dena in gear-dagum
þeod-cyninga þrym gefrunon
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.

(So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes heroic campaigns.)

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Posted: 05 May 2017 09:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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So what?

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Posted: 06 May 2017 04:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I dig the humor, Logophile. That is an old usage that does not bug me.

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Posted: 06 May 2017 06:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The article doesn’t mention Seamus Heaney’s 2000 translation of Beowulf

Why should it?  That’s utterly irrelevant.

This is a hard thing to talk about because those who are not familiar with it assimilate it to usages they’re familiar with (in which “So...” indicates some sort of logical transition), and don’t understand the phenomenon under discussion.  Just put out of your head any idea of “so” = “consequently” and imagine that every time you ask someone a question they begin their answer with “So.” Of course “every time” is an exaggeration, and it would be interesting to see a linguistic study of it, but as someone who regularly listens to interviews on NPR I am very familiar with (and annoyed by, though I realize that’s purely Fear of the New) the increasing use of this linguistic tic.  Made-up example:

“When did you first realize this?”

“So I was on the subway one day...”

The important thing is that there is zero logical connection that would require or even suggest “So”; it is purely a transition particle.  I too would like to know when it arose and how it spread.

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Posted: 06 May 2017 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I listened to a podcast recently that went on at length about so (in much more interesting detail than the linked Nunberg article), but for the life of me I can’t find it now. It was probably a Lexicon Valley podcast, but I don’t recognize it from the episode titles.

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Posted: 06 May 2017 06:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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languagehat - 06 May 2017 06:24 AM



...it is purely a transition particle.  I too would like to know when it arose and how it spread.

I hadn’t noticed its proliferation before reading this thread and the linked article.  Now that it’s demanding my attention, and especially because the NPR essay mentions geeks, Californian geeks in particular, I notice that I associate the leading so
with upspeak/uptalk, which—in my experience—was a West Coast malady. 

The introductory so also reminds me of its very common Spanish equivalent, pues, which is used in much the same way, divorced from its meanings: since, as, then, therefore, so.

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Posted: 06 May 2017 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Eyehawk - 05 May 2017 06:45 PM


If this has been discussed, please link.

I did try to search for a previous discussion (I do have a vague memory of such) but my googlefu wasn’t up to it. You can’t search for so in title or posts here, too short, and Lord knows what other words may have been in the title if it exists. Using Google didn’t help either. Wordorigins.yuku is returning Error 503, No server available. I hope that is a temporary fault, I’d hate to lose our archive.

[ Edited: 06 May 2017 06:58 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 06 May 2017 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I too have a vague memory of such (and of saying pretty much what I said here), but I have no idea how you’d go about searching for it.

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Posted: 06 May 2017 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/forums/viewthread/4377/

Previous thread on this topic.

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Posted: 06 May 2017 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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How did you do that?!  Well found, and I see Dave brought up Heaney then too, and I did indeed say pretty much the same things.

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Posted: 06 May 2017 09:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Ah, I see how you did that.  (Google ‘so wordorigins’ and it’s the second hit. So simple and yet not because the expectation of being swamped with ‘so’ hits discourages one from attempting the search, as it did with me. I should have had more faith in Google.)

Impressive, OP!

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Posted: 06 May 2017 10:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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languagehat - 06 May 2017 09:32 AM

How did you do that?!  Well found, and I see Dave brought up Heaney then too, and I did indeed say pretty much the same things.

Yeah, any excuse to bring up Beowulf. It’s what I do.

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Posted: 06 May 2017 12:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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From a few years back (2010) Language Log on sentence-initial so.

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Posted: 06 May 2017 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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So, we’ve probably talked about this before, but how many of you Beowulf fans out there have read John Gardner’s Grendel?  What did you think?

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Posted: 06 May 2017 01:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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So, no I haven’t so shouldn’t comment. So, not that that has ever stopped me.

So, now that I’ve written that it sounds odd because I think the initial “so” isn’t usually followed by a negative.

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