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admin | reflection of the past meaning | 08.02.2015
The interview I’d heard that afternoon was on Five Live’s Drive programme, in which the presenter Peter Allen was interviewing a spokesperson from BT on their plans for rolling out high-speed broadband.
One theory is that we use ‘so’ in an unconscious play for time, as a filler that fulfills the same function as ‘um’, ‘er’, or ‘ah’.
Having now encountered its use many times, my own conclusion is that the all-prefacing ‘so’ is simply a habit, and one that has spread because, at some level, it sounds cool and confident. Mark Mason discovered a hilarious example of revenge exacted by one journalist when his interviewee gave him a barrage of ‘so’s. I’m hoping that this particular bugbear day, unlike its groundhog equivalent, doesn’t last very long.
The opinions and other information contained in OxfordWords blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press. Susie DentSusie Dent is the word referee on C4's Countdown; she has written several books on language, including What Made the Crocodile Cry?, and also writes for the Radio Times.
Thanks, Susie, the sos have been annoying my wife and me (do most people say I, nowadays?) for some time. Energized by exploring and grasping the truth, teachers love to pass on what they learn for others to apply in their own lives. However, teachers face the constant temptation to love knowledge for knowledge’s sake.


How can teachers pass the “So what?” test that most of their audience have as their primary filter?
What are the best ways to encourage teachers as they draw close to God for His information, knowledge and revelation?
How do we take what teachers give us and multiply that out for others to grasp and live out? RESPOND:  What kind of church does it take to equip smart, thoughtful and robust disciples?
Defined as ‘bad-tempered, difficult, or cantankerous’, its components once meant, more or less, ‘a growling grimacer’.
Linguistic cushions like these aren’t all bad: I remember a study that compared a test group’s comprehension of two separate audio recordings, one peppered with ‘ah’s and ‘um’s, and one not. Microsoft employees claim it started with their computer programmers as a means of conveying logic and algorithmic certainty.
One emphatic and judiciously placed ‘so’ does the same; it’s when it keeps on coming that everything unravels.
The journalist decided to fight fire with fire, starting every single one of his questions with ‘Anyway’.
The next time I hear anyone indulging in excessive so-ing I will strongly resist doing the same.


Thank you for your gifts of lexicons for we illiterate masses, yearning for a simple explanation. This last description sums up almost exactly my facial expression when I hear a language tic of the moment that has knocked ‘going forward’ off the top of my bugbear list: and that is the prefacing of every response to a question with ‘So’. To my shame I responded that, whilst I’d heard it that very afternoon and had found it hugely irritating, it struck me more as a fairly sporadic tendency rather than anything on the increase. The results were surprising, suggesting that verbal white noise actually helps the listener because it allows more time to process what’s being said.  Does ‘so’ operate in the same way? They have a point: as Anand Girdiharadas of the New York Times put it, “While ‘well’ vacillates, ‘so’ declaims’. It’s a little like the business jargon we love to hate; to some degree, such tropes as ‘opening the kimono’ or ‘kitchen-sinking the figures’ may prove a useful shorthand and identity marker among those in the know. By the fifth one, his interviewee was so flummoxed that a putative ‘so’ became a whimpered ‘Well. What jarred with me also irked dozens of other listeners, who texted the programme in droves to express their irritation.



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Comments »

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