21 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Suresh Menon: so be it

The word ‘so’ is in trouble. Our columnist explores its crime

Suresh Menon
18 Jan 2016 | 04:24 pm

So now we know. How much trouble can a two-letter word get into? So plenty, if you follow its career from 1999. In that year, the word ‘so’ was banished – a quaint way of saying that it met the conditions of overuse, abuse, and uselessness. So there you have it. As an irritating word, especially irritating in its many forced uses, it ought not to be in our vocabulary.

So that was that. So we thought. So we were wrong. So the Lake Superior State University, which has been handing out the banishments for 41 years now, decided to ban the word for a second time, in 2016.

It is in a list that contains that disgusting word ‘manspreading’, the overused ‘problematic’, and ‘presser’ 
for a press conference.

‘So’ gets its second notice for being the first word in answer to any question. ‘How did you become a chartered accountant?’ Answer: ‘So my father wanted me to become a doctor, and I rebelled.’ On the earlier occasion, a decade-and-a-half ago, it was given the push for being a pointless modifier, as in, ‘I am so fed up’.

Other words and expressions that have been banished over the years include ‘my bad’, and ‘awesome’. So far so good. So futile too. For these words and expressions continue to haunt us. Everything from the moon landing to breathing is termed ‘awesome’. If you don’t believe me, forgive me, my bad.

Surely there are other words that deserve to be banished? There’s one of them right there: ‘surely’. What does it even mean? And how does its presence in a sentence lend it gravitas, levity or any other effect?

If I had a vote in these matters, I would ban the word ‘literally’. It is always used wrongly, unnecessarily, and literally makes my skin crawl when I hear it.

Another fancy word that is either the invention of Hollywood or Bollywood or any other Wood that terrible movies come out of is ‘threequel’. The word ‘prequel’ was bad enough, now we have to have one for the third part in a series. So the order seems to be: prequel, quel, sequel, threequel. Quelqu’un m’a dit, as Carla Bruni sang many years ago.

What about ‘Don’t take it personally’? Shouldn’t that one go? I mean, when someone insults you to your face, you have to take it personally. What other way is there to take it (powdered in milk, perhaps)?

The other phrase that gets my goat (along with ‘gets my goat’) is the occasional response to ‘Thank You’. 
The language-killer says, ‘No problem’, as if there is a problem involved.

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Suresh Menon

Suresh Menon

is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is.