Stop Prefixing with “So”

I was pleased to learn from Current Archaeology #330 (p. 65) that Chris Catling shares my distaste for the habit scientists have recently picked up of prefixing their answers to interview questions with ”So…”.

Q: Where did you find the new exciting fossil?
A: So we found it in Mongolia.
Q: How old is it?
A: So it’s from the Early Cretaceous.

What annoys me about this isn’t just that it’s new. I know that us speakers change language over time. My irritation is down to the fact that I reserve ”So”, when used in this position in a phrase, for two other purposes. Either to mean ”thus, ergo, it follows that”, or to indicate that I spoke about this before and was interrupted, and now I want to pick up where I left off. Neither of these apply to your first response in an interview. To my ear, it’s as bad as opening with ”Nevertheless” or ”On the other hand”.

Dear scientist, if a question about your recently published work, the work for which you have scheduled an interview with the radio, takes you by surprise, then feel free to prefix your reply with ”Well…” while you think about it. If you must.