So around the time I was realizing that Star Trek had a “some kind of” problem, I noticed that practically everyone on NPR who is asked a question begins their answer with “So…”
Diane Rehm: Okay. But how does that adult get Toxoplasmosis?
Guest: So we know that that’s probably not the case in most cases of schizophrenia…
Robert Siegel: And I’m a lot older than you are. So I want you to tell me your encounter with the “Our Gang” comedies – when and where?
Guest: So I grew up in Los Angeles. And, you know, my parents were Korean immigrants. They worked a lot. And so my sister and I would often watch television at home in the afternoons, and often “Little Rascals” was on…
Can’t they answer the question without it? Why do they need that little word to propel their answer into motion?
So then I realized that I do it too.
But why? And when did I start doing it? And what was I doing before I did it?
The scholars at Lake Superior State University don’t have the answers, but they do recognize the problem. They’ve put “So” at the top of their 41st Annual List of Banished Words, released today.
“So the word that received the most nominations this year was already banished, but today it is being used differently than it was in 1999, when nominators were saying, ‘I am SO down with this list!'” the list’s editors wrote in their annual announcement.
Among the other words on the list (and a few of the accompanying comments):
Conversation (CNN: Join the conversation: What’s ok to wear on a plane?)
“This word has been increasingly used by talking heads to describe every form of verbal communication known to mankind,” writes Richard Fry, of Marathon, Ont. “It has replaced ‘discussion,’ ‘debate,’ ‘chat,’ ‘discourse,’ ‘argument,’ ‘lecture,’ ‘talk’….”
Stakeholder “A word that has expanded from describing someone who may actually have a stake in a situation or problem, now being over-used in business to describe customers and others.” Adds Gwendolyn Barlow of Portland, Ore.: “Often used with ‘engagement.’”
Price Point “Another example of using two words when one will do.” “It has no ‘point.’ It is just a ‘price,’” commented Guy Michael of Cherry Hill, N.J.
Presser A shortened form of “press release” and “press conference.” To which Constance Kelly of West Bloomfield, Mich, points out: “This word already has a definition: a person or device that removes wrinkles.”
As usual, most of the comments seem unnecessarily fussy and humorless. What bothers me is not that the words have other, older meanings, but they’re used repeatedly and without thinking. And the less people think, the more desolate the public space will be.
What’s worse, that walk it back made the list (“Donald Trump walks back Muslim database comments“)? Or that the word it replaced is back-pedal?