So, why would you start a sentence with ‘so’?

Robert Rufa Columnist

So I just wanted to see if I could begin a sentence with the word “so” for no good reason, and apparently I can (although it felt, like, weird?).

A little background on the word “so.” It’s both an adverb and a conjunction, and it’s probably used more as the latter rather than the former. In the simplest terms, it means “therefore,” or “and for this reason.” As in, “I had a bad cough, so I went to the doctor.” It also means “in order that,” as in “They whispered so no one could hear.”

As you can see from the examples, “so” connects things. However, this doesn’t mean it can never begin a sentence. For example: “Why are you getting dressed?” “So I can leave the house without getting arrested.” It’s still connecting two thoughts, even if they belong to two people.

You've heard people say that, I'm sure — kids mostly, but not, like, exclusively?

It’s happening everywhere on the streets and in local stores, in TV dramas and sitcoms, in movies, in commercials, even in news shows and political speeches. Educated people, government officials, people my age, even my own flesh and blood!

I can’t confirm that using “so” like this is Valspeak, but I can’t imagine that it didn’t originate in California. What, you don’t know what Valspeak is? It’s “Valleyspeak,” an American social dialect that originated in the San Fernando Valley.

As with other California weirdnesses, Valspeak has spread across the entire United States and is making incursions into other English-speaking countries. It’s characterized by sentences punctuated with question marks rather than commas and periods.

You know, like “So I’m not going to school today? because I’m not, like, feeling too great? like, I’m like coming down with something?”

Oh, yes — and the word “like” too. You’ve heard this, I’m sure. I like kids, mostly, but not, like, exclusively?

Having been born in Brooklyn, I can hardly make fun of regional dialects or accents. Living among Southerners now since 1976, I dare not make fun of them. Regional dialects are not unique to the U.S., though.

In Germany, children are taught “Hochdeutsch” in school — high-German — but it’s not spoken on a daily basis everywhere.

My father’s brother married a woman from Swabia, or the Schwabenland region of Bavaria, and many Germans find Swabian German difficult to understand. Same with Plattdeutsch, which is also known as “low German.”

I hear so many people beginning sentences with “so” so often now that it doesn’t bother me so much anymore. It sure did at one time, though. When I first started hearing it, I’d go “Huh?” and wonder if I missed something.

I’m sure I don’t have any weird linguistic affectations myself, nor do I have a noticeable accent.

Some people say they hear faint vestiges of Long Island in my speech, but New Yorkers I know say I sound like a Southerner.

Can both be true?

Well, I did grow up closer to Long Island’s south shore, where people say “Youse awl.”

Maybe that ’splains it.