Thursday, December 08, 2011

Small words that mean a lot


When we talk about controversial words on this blog, most of them are “big words”: ones loaded with connotations and steeped in contentious history, such as the dreaded n-word (nigger, not nincompoop), housewife, slut and mong. Fair enough, they can often be very controversial. But little words are also important and a couple of those little words – so and thank you – have come in for a bit of analysis of late.

Last week, Radio 4 took a look at how so is increasingly being used as a discourse marker. It’s also been looked at here and here. According to some suggestions, so is making the move from webpage to spoken discourse in the kind of text to talk style that has given us LOL and OMG as everyday spoken expressions.
Elsewhere, the changing face of British politeness was beingexplored by the Daily Mail, which – as you might imagine – saw a future of doom and rudeness (not to mention nasty illegal immigrants, sponging single mums and Americans) in the changing place of thank you in our popular politeness lexicon. 

The Daily Mail story wasn’t entirely new, as it was covered by The Daily Telegraph the year before, that time with a slightly different (but still rather spurious) “survey” into changing habits.

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