Tics in My Ear

I hate it when you’re talking to someone, you tell them some fact, and they respond, “Okay…?”
It puts me on the defensive, like the person is saying, “I’m not sure I believe you, but I’ll play along for now”, or “Suit yourself, I don’t care what you do”( or say, or know).
Is it supposed to be an acceptable substitute for “How interesting!” or “Tell me more!” ? If so— it isn’t. The whole point of polite conversation is to at least feign interest, right? A wary “Okay…?” doesn’t cut it.

I know it’s just a verbal tic, like starting every sentence with “so”. I hate that, too. “So” means “therefore”, right? As in “He wouldn’t stop saying ‘Okay….?’, SO [or therefore] I shot him.” When people begin a sentence or answer a simple question starting with “so”, I always feel I must’ve missed the antecedent information.
You wouldn’t just walk into a room and announce, “So, I shot him”. Why so? Wherefore?

Welp- if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to take my pet peeves for a walk. Happy Sunday!


Please go easy on Alfred Lord Tennyson, writer of the Idylls of the King. Some of us had to learn to recite this, back in high school:
So all day long the noise of battle roll’d
Among the mountains by the winter sea



Ah, but there IS antecedent information for that line, the beginning of the “Morte d’Arthur”: all the events related in Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King”. This poem begins in medias res.

I love those poems. I discovered them when I was about…14. My sister and I used to take the venerable codex, bound in maroon leather, out in the rowboat to read, besmirching its fragile ivory-tinted pages with fingers slimy with algae from making crowns of the waterlilies (maybe more of a pre-Raphaelite vibe goin’ there…)


Gee, thanks. Now every time I go to re-read Jane Eyre my brain will make me see:

So Reader, I married him.


So, I looked up “so” in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, 1994 edition. (This book appears to be out of print, and I could find no newer edition of it available. Perhaps they’ve given up on English usage.)

So, anyway, there are two full pages on this modest word, in both its use as an adverb and conjunction. So, the bottom line is that it says nothing about the use of “so” at the start of a sentence as a kind of interjection.

On 2016-08-28 I posted the following (edited slightly for continuity) on a long-forgotten Web site, prompted by a discussion of “uptalk” among young women.

We’re in violent agreement on uptalk, but for those less familiar with the following phenomenon, pointing it out may trigger any nearby SJWs.

Indeed, but while it seems to have started with young women, it has now infected an entire generation. The SETI Institute speakers I just listened to were 8 male, 3 female, and the guys were just as prone to it as the gals.

So, I work in Professor Jacobsen’s laboratory?
So, we’re studying the rotation of near-earth asteroids?
So, we’re using radar data and light curves to characterise rotation?

I’m using the question mark to indicate uptalk. We don’t have a diacritical mark to indicate it and, Dieu voulant, we never will.

I first noticed this in the recorded proceedings of a nanotechnology conference in 2010 where most of the speakers were Ph.D. candidates, postdocs, or faculty, so it’s nothing new.

Both of these conferences were held in—you guessed it—California.


I tend to use “so” for a little extra dramatic emphasis when faced with a particularly obtuse interlocutor. After patiently explaining, in multiple varying exchanges, why they are mistaken. Usually in the form:

So, no.

So, If you get that from me, I think you are being particularly obtuse.

/me runs away