So Pushes to the Head of the Line, Anand Giridharadas

Anand Giridharadas in his New York Times column “Currents” explores the seemingly pervasive and growing use of the word “so” to start sentences.

Have you heard it too? Are you using “so” that way? I am, though I’m a little surprised at myself for having adopted so a-grammatical a mannerism.

So, when Boing Boing brought this to my attention, I thought – interesting, how long has this use of “so” been around, what’s “so” mean in this context, and where did it come from?

Turns out that Anand Giridharadas is a fairly awesome author who answered these questions and more in a light handed and informative but not overly didactic way. Look for yourself but here’re a couple of examples that I could identify with:

“So” … 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.”

Another use of “so” may have arisen from our fast paced and frequently fragmented lives, to imply a continuation or connection with an interrupted or incomplete previous conversation.

The rise of “so … is another symptom that our communication and conversational lives are chopped up and discontinuous in actual fact, but that we try in several ways to sew them together — or ‘so’ them together, as it were — in order to create a continuous experience.”

So anyway, it was a great column and highly recommended. Links:

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