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Starting sentences with 'so'
Peeve
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2014/08/03
2:03pm
bamabaiyuehan
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Why are people starting sentences with the word ‘so’?  It makes their conversations sound breathless and rushed.  Is this a generational thing?

2014/08/03
7:59pm
deaconB
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It isn’t just verbal noise.  And it’s not new; I remember it being used in the ’60s

If I say “Do you have a problem with that?”, my response is pretty much semantically non-judgmental, but if I say “So you have a problem with that?”, I am challenging your prior statement.  It’s like a wife saying, “What?” – it doesn’t mean “repeat that because I didn’t hear”, but rather “I will let you restate that offensive utterance another way because I really don’t want to beat up on you.”

Or it can simply mean. “based on your prior statement”, not challenging it, but contingent on it. as in responding to “I’m bored” with “So, are we ready to blow this pop stand and head for the library?”

So you have a problem with that?

 

 

 

 

 

2014/08/04
9:57am
New River, AZ, USA
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Like deaconB, I recall this usage from way back … the 70s in my case. I always assumed it was equivalent to starting a sentence with any other conjunction, like “and” and “but.” Usually it’s followed by a pause (if spoken) or comma (if written), but I’ve heard/seen it w/o the pause/comma. In any case, I assumed the usage was informal, and occasionally use it that way myself. But bamabaiyuehan’s question prompted some research …

So according to some, that usage is not a conjunction, but an introductory particle. In that form, it has both proponents and detractors. See:

PRO:  http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/site/introductory_so

CON:  http://www.spectator.co.uk/life/mind-your-language/6992003/mind-your-language-352/

When overdone, and used as a “placeholder,” it can be annoying. Used sparingly, I’m fine with it.

2014/08/05
4:02pm
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deaconB said
It isn’t just verbal noise.

No, it isn’t just verbal noise.

I think it’s a measurable fact that the use of “so” to introduce sentences has increased markedly. In my estimation, in the great majority of cases it is just a mindless verbal noise made by people who are mimicking others. I place it on a par with dropping “like” indiscriminately into sentences. Do you, like, see what I’m saying?

2014/08/06
1:25am
deaconB
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Peano said

No, it isn’t just verbal noise.

I think it’s a measurable fact that the use of “so” to introduce sentences has increased markedly. In my estimation, in the great majority of cases it is just a mindless verbal noise made by people who are mimicking others. I place it on a par with dropping “like” indiscriminately into sentences. Do you, like, see what I’m saying?

It’s not just verbal noise, it’s mindless verbal noise, huh?  But if it’s mindful, it’s not noise, it’s signal.  Any difference you assert is. well, just noise.

You argue that it’s a measurable fact to the use of “so” to introduce sentences has increased markedly.  If that has happened, how do propose to measure it?  The vast majority of communications is oral, so you can’t grep written communications.  People talk differently in person than on the phone, so monitoring phone calls is not going to give a representative sample, either.  Trying to monitor water coolers, customers at truck stops and casual dining joints, pillow talk, dinner tables, people whispering in libraries, patients in psychotherapy, etc., is impractical.  It’s not a measurable fact, even if you qyabrufued “markedly” – and I’m not sure it’s a fact at all.  We each notice what we’re sensitized to; buy a Cooper Mini, and suddenly, one starts seeing them everywhere.   A few years ago, people were alerted to ValSpeak, and suddenly everybody was saying “gag me with a spoon” – but only for about two weeks

Do I, like, see what you’re saying?  Yes, but to be more precise, I probably see what you’re typing. i normally hear what people are saying.  And unless we are highly precise in our own language,  we ought not be nypercritical of others’ imprecise language.

2014/08/06
2:20pm
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Here is an article that agrees with your “signal” theory.

Here is one that reflects my opinion.

It’s a big world. Let’s agree to disagree.

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