(This is a rewrite of a post I did in 2013. I have to post it again after seeing the dolt – a beautiful dolt but a dolt nonetheless – that did it twice in the span of about 20 seconds tonight on Jeopardy.)
Somewhere along the line, while we weren’t looking, they changed our language.
We see the obvious culprits, the people who have ripped apart sentences and words and maybe even basic communication itself by doing nothing but text all day long (because they would rather use their phone for any other purpose than to actually talk to someone), completely forgetting about capitalization or basic punctuation, reducing everything to an LOL, a BRB, a “U” instead of you (because it’s too much trouble to type those two extra characters), tortured abbreviations, and maybe a 🙂 (emoticons have taken the place of emotion). We’ve seen the word “the” taken away from us. Suddenly everyone is saying “prom” instead of “the prom” and “hospital” instead of “going to the hospital,” like we’ve all suddenly become British (I’ll have some bangers and mash, and put them in the boot, please!). And we have the truly bizarre habit of using the word “so” to start a sentence, which can be fine if used correctly, but not when you’re simply answering someone’s question. Some quick examples:
Interviewer: “Where were you born?”
Hip Entrepreneur: “So I was born in New Jersey…”
Interviewer: “Tell us about your new app.”
Hip Entrepreneur: “So what this app does is…”
Interviewer: “Do you like pecan pie?”
Hip Entrepreneur: “So the first time I had pecan pie…”
Was there anyone who was the subject of an interview before the 2000s who answered questions like this? Of course not. When people were asked “What do you do for a living?” the answer would have been “I’m a writer,” not “So I’m a writer and I write about…” It’s really the weirdest thing in the world. It’s happening all the time now. You might not even hear it at first but once you do, it becomes very noticeable. It’s a verbal tic that tech and business people, most in their 20s and 30s (I first noticed it with Mark Zuckerberg years ago) but sometimes older, have adopted. Or maybe it’s not even a verbal tic. Maybe it’s actually the way people think you’re supposed to talk. I’d rather people say “um” at the start of a sentence. At least that’s a sound and they’re not inserting an actual word where one isn’t needed.
Communication is weird now. If we’re not starting sentences with the word “so” for no reason, we’re keeping our phones next to us while we eat dinner, getting irritated if people use periods when they text., or we think that people are wasting our time when they take the time to say “thank you.” If this is “progress” I don’t want any part of it.
Keep an ear out for it. You’ll be amazed how often you hear it. It might even start to bug the hell out of you because you’re noticing it and for that I apology in advance.