So: The New Now?

So, as I listen to podcasts, participate in conference calls, and even talk to people face to face, I find that it is becoming more and more common for people to begin sentences with “so.” For no apparent reason.

So, the form is not something like, “This happened, and then this. So, I did this.” At least in this case, there is a causal relationship to what he/she just said.  

No, people are beginning podcasts with, “So, I’m talking to Herb Plumdiggy from Whack-A-Mole, Inc.” Managers are beginning meetings with, “So, we want to talk about the problems with our automated cotton candy spinner.” When an interviewer asks, “How can earthquakes be prevented with sheep’s bladder?” the interviewee answers, “So, this is a very interesting application. …” People are beginning stories with, “So, you guys have to hear what Gigi’s dog can do with a tricycle and a Slinky.”

So, why are people sticking this word to the fronts of their sentences? It serves absolutely no purpose.  Is “so” the next “y’know” or “like”?

So, all this got me thinking about whether we use any other words like this “so.” It occurs to me that we use “now” in a similar way:

  • Now Jason decided that red licorice just would not do for an industrial application.
  • Kids, you’re gonna regret playing with the cat with those toothpicks, now.

So, the first example is a little different from this totally useless employment of “so.” In the first example, “now” is something of a transitional word from the previous sentence. People tend not to begin a story with “now,” only continue it. You could argue that it serves no grammatical purpose; it is merely aesthetic. In the second example, on the other hand, “now” really is utterly pointless. “Meaningless!” as Orson Welles might say.

So, maybe “so” is the new “now,” but for the beginning of the sentence.

Whatever the reason, it is really annoying.

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