So when’s the last time you asked somebody a question and the first word of their reply was “so”. Probably not long ago. I heard Kathleen Wynne using it in a radio interview the other day. Not to pick on her, but she already drives me nuts with her overuse of the word “conversation.” Everything is a conversation with her. When I hear the word ‘conversation’ in that context, I brace myself, not for a conversation where two people are exchanging ideas, but rather a top-down lecture and why the answer to whatever you want is ‘no’. The premier may have picked up the ‘so’ habit from the bureaucrats who she encounters every day. You are far more likely hear ‘so’ at the beginning of sentences in the public sector—government, healthcare and education than you are on the galv line at Dofasco. To me the expression is precious and self-indulgent. Hunter Thurman, writing in the blog Fast Company says “So” Insults your audience. “That little head cock, slight furrowing of the brow, and set-up with “so” says to your audience, “I’m trying to dumb this down so someone like you may have at least a chance of comprehending the importance of what I do.” British radio host John Humphrys is declaring war on “so”. He wants a ban on the word, calling it ‘irritating’, ‘absurd’ and a ‘noxious weed’ that has invaded everyday speech. Writing in his column in Waitrose Weekend magazine, he said: ‘So I am beginning this sentence with a word that is so irritating when it’s used at the start of a sentence that I would understand if you were to rip out this column, screw it into a tight ball and hurl it at the radio the next time you hear my voice coming from it. ‘But better to horde your anger and unleash it against the growing band of linguistic vandals, who use this absurd construction routinely – especially when they are asked a question’. As somebody more clever than me said, “you reap what you ‘so.’
I’ve written about this before, but to no avail, so I am hoping that in 2016 the large chain fast food companies who operate drive-through’s will teach the incredibly friendly and polite youngsters manning the windows how to make change properly. They have become so accustomed to using the cash register as a calculator, that they sometimes look bewildered if the bill is say, $3.60 (sausage McMuffin and a large coffee) and you hand them two toonies and a dime in order to get two quarters back instead of a bunch of nickels and dimes. And then of course there is the dreaded hand-off when you have paid with say a 20 and have a combination of bills and change coming back. Instead of placing the coins firmly in your hand and then handing over the bills, all too many still present you with that little hammock of bills with the coins sliding around precariously on top. Not good when you are in a drive through and can’t get the car door open should the coins fall.
What’s a million? Quite a lot actually when you meant to say BILLION. In an editorial last month we said Ontario’s debt stood at $300 million when of course, the real number is $300 Billion. It was a typo, not an intellectual error, but nobody likes being off the mark by 299 billion and 700 million. For good measure, we also moved the new Ron Joyce Children’s hospital from Wellington Street to Victoria. Sorry about that. I searched without success to see when Ontario’s debt was last $300 Million—but for sure it was a long, long time ago.