38
   

"So, in answer to your question..."

 
 
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 08:32 am
I've noticed a disturbing trend recently -- people, in response to questions, starting their answers with the word "so." For instance:

"What did you do over the weekend?"
"So, first we went to the beach ..."

I hear this mostly from the young folk, although the president of Chicago Public Schools, Jean-Claude Brizard, has a call-in show on public radio every month and he does this constantly. It drives me batty.

So, is this a new thing? And what can we do to stop it?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 38 • Views: 25,160 • Replies: 220

 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 09:20 am
@joefromchicago,
Actually i have noticed it for a while now, and have come to the conclusion that the speaker often uses "so" when they don't intend to answer a question or criticism. I almost started a thread about it, but thought that maybe it was just me.

I was listening to a set of interviews on a particular subject when this last came to my attention. The interviewer asked one of her guests why she had taken a particular position. The woman replied: "So . . ." and then made remarks pertinent to subject, none of which answered the question. The interviewer persisted, and just at the end of that segment, she finally got the woman to acknowledge that she strongly felt she was right, but couldn't offer any data.

She then turned to her next guest (opposing point of view), and roughly the same thing happened. After stating her position, and being asked by the interviewer upon what basis she had come to the conclusion, the woman began every reply with "So . . . (a pause)" and made remarks pertinent to the subject, supporting her position, none of which were an answer to the question. The inteviewer completely failed to get even a ghost of an answer from this second woman.

Third guest is Mr. Responsible Government Representative. The first few questions go well--he's got detailed answers and all the data at his fingertips. Then about question five or six, roughly "What enforcement powers can you exercise?"--there was no response at all--dead air, a big no-no on radio. So the interviewer asks the question again, and Mr. Responsible Government Representative pauses for a moment, and repeats one of his previous replies, prefaced with "So . . .," which is pertinent to the subject, and not an answer to the questiton. This happens a couple of times, and finally Mr. Responsible Government Representative, à propos of nothing specific which the interviewer has said, says: " So . . . there are 1200 facilities in this country, and I have 22 staff." The interviewer then asks him if in fact he has no enforcement powers, and the facilities are in effect policing themselves. Long period of dead air, then "I have no comment." After a brief further period of dead air . . . "Well, that's all we have time for today--i'd like to thank my guests . . . " Show's over.

Now i know i've carried this much further than your comments. However, it seems to me that this little trick of speech often signals that the person responding does not intend to answer the question.

Finally, an odd case of this later in the day. A prominent entomologist is being interviewed, and she describes two examples of an insect which lives, usually in the understory of a forest, but the latter example thought to be evolving even as they're being studied. The scientist describes how this latter group of the insect have taken to colonizing dead trees at the level of the forest canopy. The interviewer asks her what effect this has on the health of the trees. There is a brief pause, then she says to him: "So . . . this second group has begun to colonize dead trees at the canoply level . . . "

This was also not an answer to the question, but for quite another reason. Within a few moments, the nickel drops for the interviewer.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 09:36 am
By the way, i'm not saying it always signals evasion. I've heard it used the way people once used "Uhm . . . " to fill time while they ccompose their response.
Joe Nation
 
  2  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 10:01 am
Wait a minute, I say (or write) "So", all the time. I'll bet if you looked at my thread responses , it's at the start of 5 out of six of them. I don't where I picked it up. (Vonnegut?)

I used to say "Lookit" but that sounds harsh.
~~
In today's speech, time is of the essence, I've had people ask a question and interrupt my answer three words in, hence the demise amongst politicians who used to say
"Now, let me be perfectly clear when I say this about that-----"

(It always sounded more like a prayer than anything else to me.)

~~
It's not like it's never been used before: when Perry Mason would turn to the witness and say
"So, (pause), you would have this jury believe that Miss Alderson could... .... .. "

Joe(why you old so and so!)Nation

DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 10:04 am
@Joe Nation,
Joe Nation wrote:
I say (or write) "So", all the time.

If you say so.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 10:05 am
@joefromchicago,
So, like, what's the problem?

I mean, sheesh, it's just kinda, you know, a place holder.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  3  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 10:09 am
@joefromchicago,
I've noticed it but it doesn't really bother me. I'm probably guilty of using it in writing too often but I (don't think I) use it when speaking.

To me it is sort of like a Vonnegut or Palahnuik "echo" that refers you back to something earlier, or focuses your attention on what is being said.

Like in Setanta's discussion about the tree interview:

"colonize the dead trees"
"But what about the health of the trees"
"So" (like I said) "the trees are dead" (their health has been determined)
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 10:11 am
It's spreading. On the radio, a woman is interviewing a Jamaican migrant worker who comes to Canada every year. When she asks him questions with which he is clearly not comfortable, he replies: "So . . . " and then fails to answer the question. He is also beating "ya know?" to death.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 10:15 am
My 12 year old daughter uses "So" after giving an explanation. It sounds like she is trying to emphasize her point. (Long explanation.....finishing by saying "So, yeah!")
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 10:51 am
I probably hear two or three instances of this phenomenon every morning while listening to NPR. I'll have to find and post some examples.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 11:34 am
So, somebody walks up and starts a conversation with the word 'so', or uses 'so' to bring up a new subject. Watch 'em! They're trying to make the next subject sound casual. It won't be.
CalamityJane
 
  4  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 11:43 am
We use "so" also in German, it has the same meaning too, so naturally I use it a lot. So what? No language is stagnant and changes constantly (sometimes not for the better) but such is life.

So, use "so" or don't use "so" it's so up to you! Wink
CalamityJane
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 11:44 am
@roger,
Yeah, even Siri uses "so"....
roger
 
  2  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 12:27 pm
@CalamityJane,
I don't know Siri, but already I don't trust her.
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 01:14 pm
I frequent a computer help forum, and a lot of mainly N. American question posters start their enquiries with "So". E.g. "So I downloaded a free game from a website and now I have a virus" or "So my hard drive started making a clicking sound". I get the impression that for many people, there is only spoken English, and when they want to express something in text form, they just type out what they would say (more or less, they don't put in any 'er's or 'um's. You do see 'like' now and then.)
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 01:18 pm
While that is very likely often the case, the use of "so" at the beginning of a sentence is, in my experience, a usage of younger generations.
0 Replies
 
Rockhead
 
  2  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 01:20 pm
@Setanta,
"So the interviewer asks the question again..."

hmmmmm.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 01:24 pm
@Rockhead,
That is not an example of the usage to which i referred, but if you think of that as irony, help yourself.
0 Replies
 
Joe Nation
 
  3  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 01:25 pm
@contrex,
I wish people would put in more, um, fill-in words, it would make the written word, ah, so much more like the spoken one, yeah? You see? That really wasn't a question, but, erm, by putting the 'yeah' on the end, it makes it into, ah, whatsits, a uptalking sentence. You know? Yeah.
~
I liked the comment about the young girl putting 'so' at the end of her statements. So regal, so princess like; "I asked Miranda's mother if she could spend the weekend. So."
It's kind of "There, I've said it. Thus shall it be. Amen."
~~
We need some way to indicate uptalking? Maybe use one of these~ and a question mark on each side~?~. That way when you are texting to some one who uptalks, they, er, or he or whatever, won't feel bad, yeah?

Joe( I am going back to using "Lookit")Nation
thack45
 
  2  
Reply Tue 12 Jun, 2012 01:50 pm
So, what it is, is...
0 Replies
 
 

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