Increasingly, radio and television newscasts include stories in which anchors interview correspondents in the field. That is part of a pattern: reduced news budgets, smaller staffs and greater dependence on the survivors of newsroom cuts. Anchors, of course, also conduct interviews with newsmakers, hundreds of them a day across the broadcast spectrum. Listeners accustomed to English spoken properly may be nonplussed, even irritated, when interviewees begin their answers with “So——.” It happens in approximately 65 percent of responses (that’s a staff estimate; the percentage may be higher). Whether the person being interviewed is a sixth-grade dropout in a homeless shelter, a United States senator or a reporter whose job description assumes familiarity with the language, spoken English is being “So-ed” to a faretheewell. One popular explanation, or excuse, is that the responder to a question is buying a second to think of an answer. For President Ronald Reagan, “Well—” was the crutch. Others prefer “Uh—”. The sixth-grade dropout may be excused. Professionals who make a living with the language should not be.
“So—” had not become ubiquitous when Rifftides first brought you the poet Taylor Mali’s video examination of some of the turns English usage had taken. This was in 2009.
Whaddaya think—as a good Brooklynite might ask—has English usage improved in eight years?