Way too much
Listening, by definition, is fraught with danger. Encoding, decoding, pronunciation biases and other factors determine personal tastes. I love certain combinations of words, for instance. They roll off the tongue, soothe the ear. Ian Darke, an English football announcer, can wax beautifully banal about a World Cup match between Ivory Coast and Japan and drop morsels such as "anoint the onion skin" or refer to a drunken section of spectators as "in fine voice, chortling the anthems of their forefathers." [Ian Darke looks like an age-enhanced Scabbers from Harry Potter. See photo.] But love as I might his turns of phrase, I detest others and you most certainly do too.
My current linguistic bane is a two-letter, seemingly innocuous word that like a spore, has spread unchecked and apparently unnoticed throughout the English-speaking world. The word "so" as a precursor to unrelated details that follow has become as ubiquitous as it is worthless and grating.
Speakers of all ilk spew it relentlessly. Real or imagined intellectuals, twenty-something airheads, middle-aged radio talk show hosts - it spans across socio-economic and educational parameters* - now feel compelled to begin 80 percent of their sentences with "So." Maybe even ninety percent. Needlessly, gratuitously. "So I went to the U-Haul store today." "So I smoked crack cocaine again last night." "So this dwarf - they're not midgets anymore - was rude to me at Kroger." The word so as a sentence starter is superfluous. it adds nothing. It's a one-syllable pause. An introduction that doesn't elaborate, elucidate or clarify. And the kicker is that it's not at all original by this point, since so many people have adopted this speaking tic. Not clever, not unique, Galling, vexing. It therefore seems counter-intuitive and unoriginal to use. At least to me.
What spawned this trend? Don't know, don't really care, but it's fairly certain the media are spreading its usage considerably at present and have been for several years now**. A widespread internet theory holds that "Friends" was behind the start of this pandemic. It seems plausible. Two decades later,. NPR's news programs are rife with this or that expert or author spouting the "so" scourge ad nauseum. I'm in the gym working out, and Kathy Lee and Hoda drop it ten or fifteen times while I'm on the cardio. Terry Gross, host of the interview program "Fresh Air" is by far the most cloying abuser of this hideous trend I have crossed. Her rate of 'so' sentence introduction now pushes one hundred percent. If for no other reason than that, it's a joyous treat to re-listen to Samuel L.Jackson and Gene Simmons shred Ms. Gross - for entirely different reasons - during their respective interviews. Older white women finally killed the overused "I know-right" and "Really?" vexations and with any hope they'll do the same here. Actually - and you may find this extremely sexist and/or irrational - I could take those tiresome and trite phrases from women far better than I could/ can from men. Hearing a man say, "So, I emptied the compost heap the other day and...." somehow strikes me as...what's the word? Effeminate, on type of exasperating. I know, right! It sounds crazy and shit. But all of this... I think somehow it ties into the warped, narcissistic, selfie culture that we have devolved into. An as of yet undefined link between our smug satisfaction with our presumed technological advances and starting sentences in a pseudo-clever fashion. We have cell phones that film our trivial actions in high-def, but we're still poisoning the planet at breakneck speed via machines using fossil fuels. It's all potentially connected.
I know; I digressed. Here are two reactions I have received recently to my anti-'so' campaign: "It doesn't make someone a bad person." Whoa - deep. It doesn't make them a good person either, Socrates. Not the issue. Yet I'm pretty damn sure Mother Theresa didn't go around saying, "So, I bathed a leper last night, cleansed his scabs, and fed him some gruel." Another friend said, "There are bigger problems."*** Of course there are, and if you reverse global warming or bring peace to Syria, I'll be the first to endorse your right to willfully pervert the English language at your leisure. But again, the two points are completely unrelated. Yes, there are bigger problems, but if you're not working to cure any of them anyway [and my friend wasn't - he was smoking weed at the time], it relates in no way starting your sentences with so.
I am wondering if there is an equivalent linguistic modification the last fifteen-twenty years in Portuguese, Swahili, German, Arabic, or any other language you care to insert.
*White people anyway. Not as sure about Blacks and Hispanics, but suspect so at increasingly alarming rates.
** Critical mass created when? Tipping point reached yet?
*** "So" has slightly relieved my vigilant revulsion for "At the end of the day." Nostalgically, I almost long to hear "paradigm shift" uttered by an unctuous douche instead. I told a waitress once to quit saying "I know-right!" lest I lowered her tip. Words are important. Supposably, Irregardless. You know what I mean.