In an earlier post (“Discourse-Introductory so in Geek,” January 16, 2011), the increasing presence of the particle so at the beginning of discourses was analyzed and its presence ascribed to the jargon of geeks and to Yiddish. Since then, however, it has become evident––at least in contemporary American English––that so is not limited to the beginning of discourses but actually has spread to a much more frequent status as the initiator of utterances regardless of their position in discourse. Moreover, when so occurs at the beginning of discourses it serves as a linking particle not only to preceding utterances but even to linguistically yet unexpressed material that has formed in the speaker’s mind as content that is relevant to the conversational context.
Beyond this linking function, for some speakers so has evidently become a verbal tic, to the point where such speakers cannot initiate almost any utterance––particularly at the beginning of a discourse, but not only––without prefixing so. This ticastic so is especially prevalent among young female speakers but is becoming increasingly characteristic of their male counterparts as well––and not just of geeks. Without rising (yet?) to the frequency of ticastic like, this trait has even become a habitual feature of the speech of some pre-teenagers and is growing apace.