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June 06, 2013


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I think I picked that up from the Buffyverse. (And I am so overusing it of late.)

Is this earlier connotation now passé?

Jack: Word on the street is that you are not hiring anymore.

Jill: We are so hiring!

So I had missed that Ben Yagoda article, but lately the use of "So" to begin an explanation seems to be EVERYWHERE. I've found myself using it in speech, emails, blog posts, etc. Oh, and apparently blog comments, too.

Notice that in so+verb, the verb is usually a present participle, which is effectively an adjective, very often.

I believe it all originates with so+adjective, from Johnny Carson's stock routine, as I explain here:

(toward the end of the post)

Boomers began the so+adjective, simply starting the routine without finishing it, and GenXers expanded it from there.

Mudge: According to the OED, so+adjective goes back to the ninth century. My Old English is rusty; the first entry I can competently read in that section (14a, if you're interested) is dated 1348: "The empire, that was so mighty..."

The more recent twist is so + past particple. The example that always pops into my mind is from "American Beauty" (1999). A deadpan, pre-Hairspray Marissa Jaret Winokur, as Mr. Smiley's Senior Drive-Thru Manager Janine, drawls to Annette Bening: "Whoa! You are soooo busted."

Of course so+adjective is ancient. What I don't think is ancient is very frequent use of so+adjective without the "that..." clause that naturally follows it. That makes the "so" simply a substitute for "very".

The past participle in your example (a nice comic line) is being used as an adjective.

"Notice that in so+verb, the verb is usually a present participle, which is effectively an adjective, very often."

You've hit the nail on the head there and I think that's exactly why this expression actually works in English. In the progressive construction (verb be + present participle, our example being: "we are hiring") the present participle effectively acts as an adjective describing "what we are", i.e., we are hiring.

It's no great leap to intensify an adjectival "hiring" with the adverb "so".

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