So…what’s your grievance?

It was reassuring to read comments on yesterday’s Word Nymph post about “so” versus “as,” showing that I am not enacting grammatical laws in my sleep.

One comment in particular conjured up another peeve of mine. In this season of Festivus, during which we air our grievances, I thought it might be apt to share it.

 The commenter said: “Where ‘so’ so annoys is its use as a filler word to begin a conversation, as if the subject were already under discussion. This dandy device is headed for trouble. It’s the next ‘like.’”

I agree. I can also relate. My husband often begins a conversation with “But.”

This got me thinking of an emerging pattern of speech I’ve noticed in recent years, stemming from what I’d call stopaphobia, or fear of ending a sentence definitively. Whereas the commenter notices “so” in the beginning of a conversation, I notice “so” at the end of a sentence. I haven’t seen this in written form, but it’s becoming common in spoken sentences. People just don’t want to finish a sentence with a firm period, opting to end instead with an ellipsis. Here’s an example:  “I work as a manager at IBM, so…” 

The trailing  “so” seems to go hand in hand with the trailing “or” at the end of a question. Listen for it and I swear you’ll hear it everywhere. “Are you staying in town for the holidays or…?” Meredith Vieira does this in interviews a lot. It’s not just the teeny-boppers.

Let me know if you notice this, but don’t hate me if it then drives you crazy. It’s just the plight of the wordie.

Finally, in the spirit of Festivus, and because this time of year might have us tied up in knots with excess fury to burn, feel free to lay your peeves here. Get them off your hyperventilating chests. It’s safe, so…


Filed under All Things Wordish, Holidays

13 responses to “So…what’s your grievance?

  1. Deidra Darsa

    Soooooooooooooooooo….ending a sentence in ‘at’ as in “where are you at?” Argghhhhhhhhhh Drives me nuts!

    • “Where are you at” seems to have risen up as the latest colloquialism, along with “me and him” as a subject. What really bugs me is when parents hear their children say this and don’t correct them.

      • “Where are you at?” as a question is correct form. “Where are you at” as a statement is grammatically wrong, as it should be “Where you are at” (you/are transposed). “Me and him” is actually correct, especially when terminating a sentence, although old-fashioned people like me would prefer to end as “him and me.” Interestingly, when very young at school, we used to get told off all the time for ending our sentences with “him and I” because “you’re not speaking English that way.” (FYI, this was back in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s when Latin was still a compulsory school subject, which sort of explains the “him and I” business – I hope.)

      • The peeve about “where are you at” pertains to ending a sentence (or clause) with a preposition. “Where are you?” would be correct. With regard to me and him, that would be correct (or him and me) if the pronouns served as objects. When used as subjects, “He and I” would be correct. It is not so much a beginning versus end issue as it is a subject versus object issue. Don’t you agree?

  2. Paul Pinkston

    My pet peeve with “so” is the current usage instead of a word like “very.” For example, “That is so cool.” This leaves me hanging and makes me want to ask “So cool that what?”
    Shouldn’t the word “so” in this type of sentence imply that the speaker ( or writer) is about to tell us a result? Example: “That is so funny that I forgot to laugh.”

  3. Penny

    Trailing off in mid-sentence is something I’ve been guilty of for years. The speech therapist working with my Mom pointed out to her that she needed to finish her sentences, and I realized I probably picked that habit up from her.

    “Where are you at?” reminds me of an old joke. The country bumpkin is wandering the Harvard campus on his first day there, and stops a passing upperclassman: “Excuse me. Where’s the library at?” His voice dripping with disdain, the upperclassman says, “Here at Harvard, we know not to end a sentence with a preposition.” The bumpkin says, “Oh, sorry. Where’s the library at, *asshole*?”

  4. Ellen

    My husband and I have agreed to put a dollar in a bowl on our kitchen counter everytime we start a sentence with “So…”. We do it all the time, as do most of the people we know. It’s epidemic. Not just in Jersey!

  5. Carolyn

    This just posted today on the NPR feed. Thought you and your readers might be interested.

  6. aerie

    My ex-husband used to start sentences with, “So yeah, no..[we walked there instead (example)]…”. It would grate like chalkboard nails. Of course, at that time his mere existence grated on my last, good nerve.

    New reader; enjoying your blog. (Please don’t judge my grammar.)

  7. Moe

    Congrats on the front page and what a delight to have found you.

    Here’s another recent usage involving ‘so’, although the actual violation occurs with the odd use of ‘for’. I’ve heard this one frequently from young people; when I hear do it, there seems to be a connection with ‘so’, i.e., when they use a superlative, they replace ‘about’ with ‘for’.

    An example today, from a facebook post by a young friend: “I am so excited for tomorrow! I leave for Mom’s.”

    Have your heard this one?

    • Miranda

      Yes. Having spent the last five years studying at university with people younger than my kids, I have noticed many such word “substitutions”. “Excited for” is one that really took me by surprise. Some amused as well as surprised me, such as “I know, right?” My husband and I say it all the time now, and then we have a good laugh, because it is hilariously contradictory.

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