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Thread: The Scientist "So"

  1. #1
    Senior Member Scorpion's Avatar
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    The Scientist "So"

    One of my pet peeves is when people arbitrarily start sentences with "so" when they are not transitioning from anything, particularly when I see/hear people answering questions and starting their answer with "so" for no reason. It drives me batty. An example...

    Question: How many years have you been studying this phenomena?

    Answer: So, I've been studying it for a long time, almost a decade.

    I noticed it was more often scientific or economic or technological experts doing it, and it always comes across to me as a nervous tic, and it makes these experts seem less confident about what they're saying, to me anyway. The usages that don't bother me are when someone's getting ready to tell a story or share a personal anecdote like, "So there was this girl at the coffee shop, right?" or ask a question like, "So where are we going tonight?" Both are still technically wrong, but they don't come across as a bad habit or nervous tic, as a replacement for "um" or "uh" as it does in other cases.

    I decided to Google "starting a sentence with so" and found a lot of discussion on the subject. There was one blog entry that made a lot of sense of it, even if it didn't quell my annoyance...

    Set-up: How do you know that your son will grow up to be a scientist?

    Punch-line: His first word is "So ..."

    The joke here, of course, is that quite a lot of scientists seem to always begin speaking with the word "So." And not when they're giving the conclusions to an argument — they aren't using it to mean "therefore."

    They just start from a dead stop with "So ... ". They seem to use it the way non-scientists might begin with "Um" or "Well". (I've heard computer professionals use "So", but I hear this as an attempt to sound more scientific.)
    <snip>
    Because it makes so little sense, The Scientist So reminds me that science is a subculture. Subcultures do develop funny tics that seem to have no practical purpose — handshakes or dreadlocks or backward baseball caps. Although such tics seem to simply exist to exist, they provide a way to identify and control membership in the group. They do a job, whether they make any sense in themselves or not. Maybe The Scientist So marks the speaker with a cultural affiliation — that of "Scientist."
    [Full Article: Scientists Say So]

    Wise, do you hear this often with your colleagues?

  2. #2
    Interesting.

    I start sentences with "So" all the time. I'm a software engineer, working in a hardware engineering company.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Scorpion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Katja View Post
    I start sentences with "So" all the time. I'm a software engineer, working in a hardware engineering company.
    There's a theory that the trend started in Silicon Valley with programmers, software engineers, etc.

  4. #4
    So...now that I know that it irritates people, I'll have to start policing my speech for it.

    Another area of innocence lost.

  5. #5
    I see 'so' as a pause/space before the thought. It doesn't bother me.

  6. #6
    Funny - there's an IC engineer at work; I don't think I've ever heard him begin a report without saying "So..."
    It's nice to have some things that you can rely on. Too bad they're never things that might be helpful
    - Richard

  7. #7
    Senior Member Scorpion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chaz19 View Post
    I see 'so' as a pause/space before the thought. It doesn't bother me.
    This is different than starting the answer to a question with "so." Usually, in the way you refer to, "so" is being used as a conjunction, which it is. But to answer a question starting with "so" is maddening.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Foolish Old's Avatar
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    I begin sentences with "so". For me, it is just a transitional aid to move from the continuing cosmic conversation to the specific subject being addressed. IMO, there are instances where it would be misleading to imply that one was starting a new conversation, rather than just moving to a different topic.
    Foolish

    "We have met the enemy and he is us."-POGO.

    "I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it."~Edgar Allan Poe

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  9. #9
    Senior Member Scorpion's Avatar
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    Continuing cosmic conversation. I like that!

  10. #10
    Senior Member mr_coffee's Avatar
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    I'm not a fan of "So" and am also a software engineer but I may look into using it in the future.
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