“So” Defined

The conversational baton


conj.: so

If an ellipsis made a sound, it would be “So.” Your neighbor might be telling you about his fascinating weekend, “And then Gertie and me, we went to the Bethel Lutheran Church, and they served this real good bran muffin at the fellowship afterwards…so….”  At first it might seem that he simply wants to sneak in one last round, cow-ish vowel. But in fact the “so,” serves as a conversational baton. He is asking you—in his quiet, awkward, Scandinavian way—to please, for the love of God, take over the conversation, so that you might avoid an eye-shifting, foot-scuffing silence. If you fail to understand this, he might repeat the “so,” again. And again. Sometimes, especially among the men, if all weather and sports topics have been exhausted, the conversation will consist entirely of “so,” and “so,” and “so,” the word tossed back and forth like a sad, semi-deflated football.