So Anand Giridharadas has written a piece about the word so, tracing its ascendency as a sentence-opener to Silicon Valley:

And “so” suggested a kind of thinking that appealed to problem-solving types: conversation as a logical, unidirectional process, proceeding much in the way of software code — if this, then that.

This logical tinge to “so” has followed it out of software. Starting a sentence with “so” uses the whiff of logic to relay authority. Where “well” vacillates, “so” declaims.

It declaims. That’s the reason Seamus Heaney chose it as the translation for the opening word of Beowulf:

Conventional renderings of hwæt, the first word of the poem, tend towards the archaic literary, with ‘lo’, ‘hark’, ‘behold’, ‘attend’ and — more colloquially — ‘listen’ being some of the solutions offered previously. But in Hiberno-English Scullion-speak, the particle ‘so’ came naturally to the rescue, because in that idiom ‘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.

Listen for yourself:

Beowulf on Huffduffer

Have you published a response to this? :

Previously on this day

12 years ago I wrote Hacktime

The hackclock is ticking.

12 years ago I wrote Hacknight

Hackery, Werewolf and The Doctor.

15 years ago I wrote Blooming wit

Yesterday was Bloomsday. I wasn’t in Dublin: I was on stage in Brighton with Salter Cane. Still, I couldn’t let the occasion pass unmarked.

16 years ago I wrote Browser gloom and doom

When I wrote earlier this month about Microsoft’s decision to stagnate browser development, I took a fairly pessimistic view of where we developers now stand.