So, I’m writing to lament the slow creep into everyday parlance of a most irritating vocal tic – starting a sentence with “so”. So, it usually happens in response to a question: “what did you have for breakfast?” “So, I had cereal, then some toast, and a cup of coffee.” So? So what!
I first noticed it among academics. “How fast is the universe expanding, Professor Shortass?” Shortass will inevitably begin his answer with a “So…,” preferably heavily elongated, while tipping his head to one side and furrowing his brow. It’s a short hand, of course. A way of conveying that he’s a very smart person and he’s going to have to start very slowly and very simply so us mere normal people will have a chance to understand just how great he is.
So, now it has become a favourite among radio interviewees; particularly in that questionable format where one journalist is interviewing another journalist about what all the other journalists are saying. “Why is the economy in such a mess, Tom?” To which Tom will tip his head and furrow his brow before beginning, “so, that’s a very good question Bob. Thank you for giving me another chance to demonstrate how superior I am to our viewers/listeners.”
So, can we just return “so” to being an unobtrusive little conjunction, with occasional outings as an adverb.