As a student of language, or communication arts, as they used to euphemistically call it in the early-80s Richmond Public Schools curriculum, I have noticed an interesting trend lately among PROFESSIONALS. No, we are not talking about the trend-setting and famously-disinterested animal called the College Student. Lately, I have listened with interest as several high-level management types have begun fairly broad and important statements with the space-filling, “So.”
Initially, I thought it might be the domain of the tragically hip, earnestly-geeky young up-and-comer. Perhaps a way for them to endearingly gather the audience’s attention before launching into some verbal tap-dance.
Then I heard a senior leader use the term to begin a statement on the relative health of a volunteer association. So . . . and he really did pause . . . we decided that we will maintain decision-making ability and final selection rights for the award, but will work more collaboratively with [another department]. My attention was rapt. I couldn’t believe it had been a coincidence that I was hearing this dear appetizer of a word again.
Suddenly, I was wondering whether William Safire and I had simply missed the boat on a social movement of sorts, to introduce new emptiness to verbal communication? I mean, everybody was using it except me! I think it occurred to me that the annoying and cloying sweetener favored by teens and cooler-than-school college girls was going out of style, and, like, I missed the whole thing!
So, here I sit and wonder where we will go with this? Its not yet so widely tossed around that its annoying, and in fact, it does get my attention. This could be really important. I mean, the economy might be tanking, the presidential contenders may be squarely focused on one another’s jugulars, but like the new Monday Night Football ad campaign that emphasizes the drudgeries of Monday at the office being countered by the prospect of Monday nights in front of the television watching the night’s game, I can now while away my monumental meeting schedule tracking this social phenomenon I will call the “The So . . . Thing.”
And I challenge you to help make this movement something that really gets the attention of the marketplace. As you work your way through the next several weeks, see whether you can incorporate this new Term for a 21st-century Mover-and-Shaker, into at least one major discussion each day.
Track how often you use it and see whether you can virally connect other people to this term. Then in a couple of weeks, see if, like the dollar bills you probably marked your initials on in the 80s, it comes back to you. Have you helped spread “The Word?” Are more of your colleagues and friends starting statements with an alluring and tasty, “So?”
I hope . . . so.