It was one of those days that reminded me about the things that drive me nuts. Not things, exactly, but words. Specifically, why and how words are used and what it does to me when they are. Turns out that I’m not the only one.
I didn’t wake up today expecting to wade into this debate with myself. In fact, it’s likely I would have gotten through the day without a thought about it, if it hadn’t been for the so. It wasn’t even my own “so” to begin with. It belonged to a former colleague I hadn’t seen or talked to in 9 months. She’d pinged me on LinkedIn and we’d decided to catch up.
She was already at the Starbucks when I arrived and had taken her seat on the bench side of a small, round table. I took the chair side. We were talking about our kids, who are about the same ages, when she ended a sentence with “so.” I hadn’t noticed. I’m usually on guard for people using so to begin sentences, not to end them.
“That’s my biggest problem right now,” she apologized.
“What’s that?” I wondered.
“So,” she said.
I furrowed my brow, half closed my left eye and moved my head to the right slightly, making my confusion easy to see.
“I’m ending all of my sentences with so and it’s driving me crazy.”
“I don’t think anyone’s noticing. I didn’t until you paused and told me.”
“I’m noticing. And it’s got to stop. I feel like people are mocking me because it’s so stupid and, you know, unnecessary.”
I didn’t know.
“You might be over-thinking it. Besides, if that’s your biggest problem, you don’t have very big problems,” I offered with a smile intended to back her away from the ledge she seemed to be inching toward.
“Maybe,” she sighed, “but I’d like it to stop, so.” Her sentence trailed off. “Damnit, I did it again.”
She went on to catch herself “so-ing” the end of her sentences a few more times throughout our conversation. Each time, she’d abruptly stop talking and smile an embarrassed smile at her so-slip-up. It was painful for her.
She told me that she’d gotten her kids to stop saying “like” by saying “like” out loud every time they said like. That had to be annoying I thought.
“It pissed them off, but it worked. They don’t say like anymore,” she said proudly, and I wondered if they now say f**k more frequently instead, like an unintended consequence thing.
It occurred to me that she was using the same psychology, the same piss-herself-off technique that had solved her kids’ “like” problem, so good for her.
On the bright side, I give her credit for recognizing a perceived flaw that she felt committed to overcoming. Awareness if the first step to changing any behavior, and action is the second. She had clearly taken both steps.
I hope she’s successful, so……. [Hard Stop]. Damnit.
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