The uncontrollable rise of ‘so’

A New York Times story follows
the life and times of “so”, which may well be the new “um”, “oh”, “well”
and, every valley gal’s favourite transition: “like”.

NYT‘s Anand Giridharadas writes:

“So, it is widely believed that the recent ascendancy of “so” began in Silicon Valley. The journalist Michael Lewis picked it up when researching his 1999 book “The New New Thing”: “When a computer programmer answers a question,” he wrote, “he often begins with the word ‘so.”’ Microsoft employees have long argued that the “so” boom began with them.

“In the software world, it was a tic that made sense. In immigrant-filled technology firms, it democratized talk by replacing a world of possible transitions with a catchall.

“And “so” suggested a kind of thinking that appealed to problem-solving types: conversation as a logical, unidirectional process, proceeding much in the way of software code — if this, then that.”

Giridharadas goes on to give examples of ‘so’ sneaking into both everyday speech and the written world, everyone from Hilary Clinton to National Public Radio. He explains that ‘so’ is a logical addition to our language considering the fragmented, multi-tasking society we live in. He writes:

“”So” seems also to reflect our fraught
relationship with time. “Well” and “um” are open-ended; “so” is
impatient. It leans forward, seeks a consequence, sums things up. It
is a word befitting a culture in which things worth doing must bear
fruit now, where it is more fulfilling to day-trade grain futures than
to raise grain.”

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