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When did the word “so” begin to be used to start a sentence?
Garbage/stuff words

So many folks begin some narrative with "So". I see it everywhere especially in the past few years.

Ex: "So I was at the grocery store today and ran into John."

The sentence has the same meaning without it. Why do people do this?

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I'll take a plain 'So' over a 'So like' anyday. –  Jim Apr 4 '12 at 4:40
    
    
Thanks jwpat. I should have searched before posting. I'm new here. –  ak84 Apr 4 '12 at 7:23
    
The sentence does not have the same meaning without it. With the "so", the sentence is connected to a prior statement, conversation, or question as a follow up or response. Without it, it's just as likely to be freestanding. (That's why you don't walk up to a stranger and say, "So, what can I do for you?") –  David Schwartz Apr 4 '12 at 11:55
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marked as duplicate by Will Hunting, Mahnax, jwpat7, tenfour, RegDwigнt Apr 4 '12 at 9:10

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2 Answers

Beware the Recency Illusion. This use of ‘so’ is not new. Shakespeare frequently uses it as an introductory particle, as in this from ‘The Rape of Lucrece’:

So so, quoth he, these lets attend the time.

Swift similarly uses it in his ‘Journal to Stella’:

So you have got into Presto's lodgings; very fine, truly!

Its current use to mean, in some cases ‘well then, in that case, very well’ and in others ‘but then, anyway’ reflects Yiddish idioms. Its first recorded use in this sense is in 1950:

Miriam returned after 11.30.‥ ‘So where did you go?’ Feld asked pleasantly.

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It's simply part of the expanding stable of pause-fillers: um, ah, well, like, mmm, yah, and so on. Anyway

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