So (sentence opener)
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So is an English word that, apart from its other uses, has become increasingly popular in recent years as a coordinating conjunctive opening word in a sentence. This device is particularly used when answering questions although the questioner may also use the device.
So graunte hem sone out of this world to pace (So grant him soon out of this world to pass);
So as a sentence opener has been used in later historical literary works such as:
- The Rape of Lucrece, 1594, by William Shakespeare
- Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded, 1740, by Samuel Richardson
It is widely believed that the recent ascendancy of so as a sentence opener began in Silicon Valley. Michael Lewis, in his book The New New Thing, published in 1999, noted that “When a computer programmer answers a question, he often begins with the word ‘so.’ ” Microsoft employees have long argued that the “so” boom began with them.
Various suggestions have been made as to its purpose:
- as a coordinating conjunctive to refer backwards to something previously mentioned
- as a discourse marker
- to signal that the following words are chosen for their relevance to the listener
- to provide a small amount of extra thinking time
In his Modern English translation of Beowulf, Irish poet Seamus Heaney uses "So." to translate the single-word opening line, Hwæt! (also rendered 'lo', 'hark', 'listen', etc). He explains that "in Hiberno-English Scullion-speak [...] 'so' operates as an expression that obliterates all previous discourse and narrative, and at the same time functions as an exclamation calling for immediate attention. So, 'so' it was".
- Melissa (23 September 2015). "So, When Did We Start Introducing Sentences with So?". Today I Found Out. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
- Anand Giridharadas (21 May 2010). "Follow My Logic? A Connective Word Takes the Lead". The New York Times.
- Origins of using "so" as a sentence opener Boing Boing Mark Frauenfelder 17 June 2010
- Goldberg, Haley (14 February 2014). "So… why is everyone saying "so?"". USA Today.
- Bolden, Galina B. (2009). "Implementing incipient actions: The discourse marker 'so' in English conversation". Journal of Pragmatics. 41 (5): 974–998. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2008.10.004.
- "Do you use "so" to manage conversations?". Dictionary.com.
- Mason, Mark (5 November 2011). "It's so annoying. So why do people feel compelled to start every sentence with 'so'?". The Spectator.
- Seamus Heaney (19 February 2009). Beowulf. Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-25072-1.
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- So does starting a sentence with 'so' annoy you? BBC 21 Nov 2011
- So, here's a carefully packaged sentence that shows me in my best light The Guardian Oliver James 26 Jul 2013
- So, here's why it's OK to start a sentence with 'So' Today Meghan Holohan 15 May 2014
- So It Turns Out That Everyone’s Starting Sentences With ‘So’ The Chronicle of Higher Education Ben Yagoda 2 Dec 2011
- So, What's The Big Deal With Starting A Sentence With 'So'? NPR Geoff Nunberg 3 Sep 2015
- So, Why Start Sentences With 'So?' KMUW Lael Ewy Oct 21, 2014
- So Here's Why Everyone Is Starting Sentences With The Word 'So' Business Insider Christina Sterbenz 12 May 2014