2 years agoFebruary 21, 2011
British Library project to “capture the sounds of spoken English all over the world” which involves people reading Mr. Tickle by Roger Hargreaves.
2 years agoDecember 30, 2010
2 years agoJuly 12, 2010
‘So’ Pushes to the Head of the Line
For most of its life, “so” has principally been a conjunction, an intensifier and an adverb.
What is new is its status as the favored introduction to thoughts, its encroachment on the territory of “well,” “oh,” “um” and their ilk.
So, it is widely believed that the recent ascendancy of “so” began in Silicon Valley. The journalist Michael Lewis picked it up when research ing 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.
This logical tinge to “so” has followed it out of software. Starting a sentence with “so” uses the whiff of logic to relay authority. Where “well” vacillates, “so” declaims.
To answer a question starting with “well” suggests you are still considering it, don’t know fully but are getting there. To answer with “so” better suits the age, perhaps: A Google-glued generation can look it up where their parents would have said “I don’t know,” Facebook and Twitter encourage ordinary people and not just politicians to stay on message, and we gravitate toward declamatory blogs and away from down-the-middle reporting.
“So” also echoes the influence of a science– and data-driven culture. It would have been unimaginable a few decades ago that literature scholars would use neurological correlation analysis to evaluate texts, or that ordinary people would quantify daily activities like eating, sex and sleeping, or that software would calculate what songs we will like.
But in algorithmic times, “so” conveys an algorithmic certitude. It suggests that there is a right answer, which the evidence dictates and which should not be contradicted. Among its synonyms, indeed, are “consequently,” “thus” and “therefore.”