So when did it actually take hold. I mean, the business of answering a question by starting the answer with ‘SO’? As on quiz shows, for instance.
What do you do for living, then, Kevin?
So, ‘Zander, I put the eyes in Cabbage Patch Dolls
Or in news links going live to reporter on the ground:
What’s the reaction of the community this morning?
Significant satellite delay pause.
So, Sophie, temperatures seem to have cooled, but there’s still a significant police presence, as you can see behind me.
When did I become aware of it? When did I become so annoyed by it? Why? Why do I care? (don’t answer that in case you start with “So”). I was perfectly comfortable with certain usages for years and years. Mothers did it when you came home inexcusably late.
So where’ve you been?
Friends said it when you hadn’t seen them for ages.
So how are you doing?
And colleagues, when they’d just pitched an idea about how things could be changed
So what do you think, then?
And that was perfectly fine. You’ll notice there’s no pause after “so”. Whereas in current usage there is. What’s that about. There was a period after that (probably not yet finished) when things became so (or emphatically SO) this that or the the other. Fashions became so last year. It was making noun phrases do the work of adjectives. I have no rooted objection to that. It’s what we can do in English. Shakespeare did it all the time, pushing the limits of what could be done. But it still irritated me in a low-level way. And now the latest, passing (it will pass; things do) usage. It annoys me that I can’t actually explain the basic grammatical function of ‘so’ any more. So happy, or so cross…I get that . It’s an intensifier. And in the first examples, it’s a rhetorical device. I can live with that. Still; I think I’m becoming rooted in the role of grumpy old man.
So, I thought, tongue in cheek, I’d post a poem which for some reason I called
So I’m thinking
– of Ted Hughes’ gritstone house,
of that tunnel of a yard, its slippery flags,
of that valley of unsmoking chimneys,
an old abandoned artillery
knee-deep in brown leaf-litter,
firing blanks at a Pennine moon,
– of the abrasions of passing time,
the world wearing down till it’s bland as an egg,
to the soundtrack of seconds, a long, drawn
cello note, circling these cloughs
– of defunct mills and breweries –
Hammonds, Duttons, Websters, thin and bitter,
and of my Methodist uncle,Leonard,
and of the Pledge he signed, aged six,
– of this film I saw, in Japanese,
at the Essoldo, where the whole of an army was killed
down to the very last one, the cannibal,
shot through the smoke by the farmers
burning stubble, clearing the last of war
that ended when I was two
and still isn’t over, seventy years on,
which is not to be laid at Ted Hughes’ door,
any more than the orphans
walled in the sides of the valley
in the shadow of lums and sycamores
I’ve never sent it anywhere, as far as I can remember. It’s a sort of tribute to the times I’ve spent at Lumb Bank, to the stories of the orphanage in the valley, to the smokeless chimneys, to that dark back yard. Which turns up in one that was published (in Much Possessed)..this one started life in a workshop which invited us to think of two writers and then to put them in a landscape. There’s minimal invention in it.
Brittle as a mirror
worrying at little lines
exquisite as ants or wasps
half-aware of an open window
banging somewhere in this long dark house
in a clenched valley
of cold chimneys and black walls
cemented with orphans’ bones
balsam flattened by the weight of wind
of trees flogging themselves to death
she cramps herself small, and smaller
dreams of dwindling
into the fastness of a shell
of lying under a full moon
in a sky of no wind
Somewhere out in the yard, a bucket has blown over
rackets about the cobbles like a big man in a rage
like a man who’d smash his fist into a gritstone wall
and sing about the blood.
So. There you are. Have a nice Friday.