Is so, like, the new cool?

Remember the far off decade of the 2000s, when every acned adolescent interjected the words “like” and “cool” into every sentence? Apparently they were following a trend set by teenage girls in California’s San Bernadino Valley. But it made ordinary conversations-such as those in the hall of a bank-almost impossible to pursue with the young, fashionable and misguided.

That plague seems to be past its worse. But a regular reader, Mr Peter Seymour of Hertfordshire, has drawn our attention to another-the rise of so. Scarily, the educated and discursive(people like us) seem more vulnerable to the infection than mere adolescents are.

Normally this humble little English word functions as a vital but near-invisible component of our thoughts, both as conjunction and adverb. However according to Mr Seymour and a host of experts (see [1] [2] below) there is a baleful trend to use it as meaningless conversational interjection, to hide meaning and lead conversation off in a different direction from the answer the interlocutor was expecting. John Humphrys dissects this for the Mail, while Christina Sterbenz was charting its rise for Business Insider as far back as 2014.

And so we invite you, good readers to watch out for this word and its use by communicators of all types, but especially politicians in every interview you listen to. Has the speaker uttered it to clarify their meaning, or obscure it? Is what they are saying logical? Does it clash with with any other things they say? So now you have a little task. Clear communication is so important.



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