So inescapable

Peter Gabriel’s So album
  • Peter Gabriel’s So album

Hey Hipster:

Why do all hipsters start every sentence with the word “So?” The adult version of “Like.”

— Matt G

Maybe I’m reading too closely between the lines here, but are you suggesting that hipster speech couches itself in layers of obscurity, inference, and indecision? That hipsters’ alleged refusal to take anything seriously has invaded their language to the degree that each and every hipster utterance comes packaged as a question already answered by popular consensus, as if the answer were so obvious that discussing it in the first place would be a waste of words? Or would you imply that hipsters slide edgewise into every sentence, perhaps as a way to refrain from saying anything for which they might be held accountable?

Do you mean that hipsters are inherently noncommittal because their studied nonchalance is coded into language?

You have grammar partly on your side, since a grammatical “hedge” is a word or phrase that lessens the impact of what’s to follow. Suppose I were to say, “So, I heard there’s a new independent coffee roaster in town that hand-selects beans based on an ancient Yemeni lunar calendar for predicting peak freshness and flavor.” By hedging the whole thing with a “so,” I make it clear that the appearance of this wonderful new coffee shop is really no big deal, that I might already be over it, and that I’m not even suggesting we should go, not really, just that I’ve heard of it, and if you’re at all in the know, you’ll also downplay the gravity of this event, which might be a game-changer for lesser hipsters, but which you and I are thoroughly beyond caring about.

But, grammar also argues that “so” is just a filler, a word used to take up the inevitable pauses in everyday speech. Its use is almost viral in that sense, and it will go away sooner or later, replaced by another word that drives you or someone else crazy.

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