Monday, 15 September 2014


So a while back one of the contestants on Frank Skinner’s ‘Room 101’ chose the word ‘so’ as her pet hate. She didn’t mean the word ‘so’ in every use and context, only the way that people had started to use it at the beginning of a sentence, in response to a question.

By adding ‘so’ in this fashion she reckoned they sounded incredibly patronising.

Unfortunately I can’t for the life of me remember who that contestant was but being a boring old scribbler from way back who’s just a trifle on the sad side of obsessive about words, I recall perking up like cats ears after a clatter in the kitchen when alerted to the word’s new usage.

So ever since then all I can hear is people answering questions with sentences starting with ‘so’. It’s driving me crazy. At first I tried to put it down to being simply that phenomenon when you think of something and then can’t stop spotting it.

Trouble is, I know it’s not that. This new ‘so’ is almost pandemic. Everybody on the radio and TV who believes they possess a tiny piece of knowledge that the audience might not understand, thinks that if they start their answer with ‘so’, it will for some bizarre reason make their answer clearer while preserving their image as some kind of superior being with esoteric knowledge that they are deigning to share with us.

“So it’s an airborne virus, which means it’s carried on the air.”
“So the cow eats the grass and then we milk the cow and make the cheese from the milk.”

So yes, dear Colyoomistas, it’s getting to me. It’s not the word ‘so’ that irks me but more the way it’s now being used. We all know language is an amorphous entity, with culture and technology providing new words, but it’s people like us who choose which ones we want to use or leave behind.

I love the process, as it keeps us scribblers on our toes, while offering a zeitgeist insight into the minds, styles and preferences of our society.

So the next time you hear somebody giving an explanation starting with ‘so’, remove the word in your mind and see if their sentence suffers in the slightest.

I don’t think so.

Quite possibly you’ve already decided that Adley has lost his noodle once more and you may well be right, but pay some heed. I have good form in the wordy way of things. I’m proud to say this colyoom raised a very early red flag on the word ‘iconic’:

Double Vision - March 2009:
“It’s official. The word ‘iconic’ has just become iconic. It’s an iconic word. Pure iconic.
Our 21st century culture craves ultimates as if there is no tomorrow. Hyperbole and exaggeration now reign where adjectives and a varied vocabulary used to do a fair job. It’s no longer sufficient for anything to be unique, special, vital or extraordinary.
If it’s not iconic it’s not worth a busted light bulb.”

Since that old colyoom the word ‘iconic’ has become so ubiquitous and has lost so much power it will never again carry the same gravitas, but hey, words come and go.

People these days are using the word ‘marvellous’ half as much as 20 years ago. Other words currently on the way out are ’Fortnight’, ‘Fetch’, ‘Catalogue’, ‘Drawers’ and ‘Marmalade.’

Drawers?  So what do modern people keep their socks in?
Marmalade on the way out? Not in my house!

Still, it’s not a huge surprise to discover that usage of the words ‘Facebook’ ‘Internet’ and ‘Website’ are all increasing, alongside ‘Essentially’, and everyone’s favourite, ‘Awesome’.

So once you’ve got rid of iconic and all the other poetic expressions of grandeur, ‘Awesome’ is what you’re left with.

Dread to think what the folk of the Old Testament, whose God was ‘Awful’ (as in ‘inspiring awe’) would have to say about a teenager describing their iced Mochafrappachino as ‘Awesome'. While the word once carried an almost supernatural power and beauty, now we yawn as we hear it.

Sometimes words are the James T Kirks of vocabulary, boldly going where they have never been before, exploring strange new contexts, seeking out new meaning and anti-meaning.

Not so long ago, it was sufficient to describe things that you didn’t have to pay for as ‘free’. As children we gleefully collected Free Stickers and Free Football Cards from petrol stations. ‘Buy One Get One Free’ was just the way it was back in those whacky carefree distant days of last week. So you either paid for things or they were free; nothing more nor  less was needed by way of definition.

So somebody somewhere decided that the word ‘Free‘ no longer cut the mustard, so now nothing will ever merely be ‘Free’ again. Why ‘Free’ isn’t adequate as a word to describe the concept of ‘Free’, I’ll never fully understand, but now things either cost something or they are ‘For Free.’

As wordy conversions go, this particular change hasn’t been a slow affair. Back in the 1970s, when there was neither satellite TV nor You Tube, American expressions like ‘No Way’ took years to be absorbed into European society, trickling across the Atlantic to London, thence to Galway and all parts occidental.

These days words travel much faster. ‘For Free’ happened completely overnight. There’s not a marketing department in Ireland offering anything ‘free’ anymore.

So it’s ‘For Free’ or you pay for it.
So that’s the way it is.

While I’m on a roll and have the chance for a pun, I have to ask Griffins, who still bake by far the best bread around, why they felt the marketing need to become ‘Artisan’? Everyone’s Artisan these days. Call yourselves Master Bakers or Craft Bakers. ‘Artisan’ just makes me think of ‘Artisanal’, and that puts me off my sandwich.

Oh for goodness sake Charlie, just chillax!
Chillax? Oh, don’t get me started.

©Charlie Adley

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