So the ritual goes something like this.
So there you are, listening to a studio interview on a breakfast news show, and after each and every question the interviewee kicks off with the one-word phrase, “So.”
“So. What I’m saying is, we need a major investment in the national infrastructure in order to save the taxpayer money in the long run…”
“So, it’s basically a cross-platform multi-channel solution to maximise the user experience and leverage the…”
“So. I’m so glad you asked me that.”
So you’ve noticed it too? So dramatic, eh? So many people do it nowadays that this use of the “So” word has spread like a virus, becoming today’s equivalent of the “Harrumph”, the ceremonial clearing of the throat, the marking of the start of a new topic, and so much more.
So that’s what we’re living in, the Age of So, where that innocuous little conjunction that used to hang around mid-sentence has become a big fat interjection at the beginning, so it’s no longer a conjunction or interjection any more, or an intensifier or adjective or adverb or what-have-you but a way to preface absolutely everything you say.
So much so that it reminds me of “Famous Seamus” Heaney’s award-winning translation of “Beowulf”, an epic whose first word is “Hwæt!” So he later explained that that was just the poet’s way of saying to his medieval audience, “Oi, listen up, you drunken Vikings, while I tell you a story,” and Heaney the clever so-and-so’s translation of “Hwæt!” was a simple “So”…
So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
So back to that breakfast radio show, and what the interviewee is really saying…
So I’m a spin doctor or a spokesperson, or your local TD or a bumbling academic, and I’m in the hot seat but I have packaged my very self to sound ever so important and intelligent and correct about everything, and that other person in the “conversation” just has to agree with everything I say because now I’m in control of the “conversation” because I started with the “So” word, or I simply needed to buy some time, a few valuable fractions of a nanosecond to come up with an answer, any answer in fact – with “So” acting here as a psychological punctuation mark to oneself before one wades in – because I’m ever so uncomfortable with the subject matter, but at least if I start with the “So” word I can then go on to say whatever I like anyway but “So” will make it somehow sound like it’s an answer to the question when it patently isn’t. So there. So I’m lying. So what you gonna do about it?
“So!” is the new “Look!”, the weasel word of the moment, the two little letters that signify a tale told by an idiot in a radio studio, an answer that has been rehearsed and stage-managed to death, a packaged account in dumbed down PR speak or a politician’s blather, or a “backstory” that “you simply must hear first”, giving the pretense that there has been a prior conversation between interviewer and interviewee, or the pretense of a magic solution, or the subconscious signal that the speaker doesn’t believe a word of what they’re saying but that’s what Management said you should say today, so get on with it.
So flipping annoying though, so ubiquitous, so Mark bloody Zuckerberg, so bloody prefabricated and artificial compared with the way you normally speak over a few pints down the pub. So so so so bloody so!
So this is our “So” moment, the “So” meme as the discourse marker of the day in a culture of pseudo empathy, “So” as the algorithmic certitude of a software engineer, as a word I so hate, yet a word that’s so bloody obvious too – like a poker player’s tell, or the stand-up comedian setting up a joke: “So these three guys walk into a pub: an Englishman, an Irishman and a Dalek…”
“So…” has become the new “Look…” or “Like…”, standing for the nothingness at the heart of everything, like. So like the “ums” and “ers” and “lookits” that fill the empty void, like the “I’m so glad you asked me thats” and “The fact of the matter is thats” and the “Let me at this stage be absolutely open and honests” and the “I didn’t interrupt you so don’t interrupt mes” and the “Once upon a times” of our times.
So essential has it become, this tic, this conversational crutch, that it reminds me of the plastic bottles of lukewarm water that recreational walkers insist on clutching for dear life whenever they leave home for fear of running into a sudden drought while popping down to the corner shop for a pint of milk and a packet of fags.
So here’s a tip for breakfast radio interviewers everywhere: the next time someone prefaces all their answers with the “So” word, just preface your questions every time with “Anyway”, or “Therefore”.
So, rant over (and we’ll leave it there so).