So, here is an interesting piece by Anand Giridharadas, about an evolution in our conversational language. You can read the full article over at his personal blog. I’ve included a small excerpt below:
For most of its life, “so” has principally been a conjunction, an intensifier and an adverb.
What is new is its status as the favored introduction to thoughts, its encroachment on the territory of “well,” “oh,” “um” and their ilk.
So, it is widely believed that the recent ascendancy of “so” began in Silicon Valley. The journalist Michael Lewis picked it up when researching his 1999 book “The New New Thing”: “When a computer programmer answers a question,” he wrote, “he often begins with the word ‘so.”‘ Microsoft employees have long argued that the “so” boom began with them.
In the software world, it was a tic that made sense. In immigrant-filled technology firms, it democratized talk by replacing a world of possible transitions with a catchall.
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.
To answer a question starting with “well” suggests you are still considering it, don’t know fully but are getting there. To answer with “so” better suits the age, perhaps: A Google-glued generation can look it up where their parents would have said “I don’t know,” Facebook and Twitter encourage ordinary people and not just politicians to stay on message, and we gravitate toward declamatory blogs and away from down-the-middle reporting.