The GenX “So” Makes it to the NYT’s Editorial Page

A recent New York Times editorial used the GenX “so“, as in “that was sonot relevant”. Over at Language Log, Arnold Zwicky considers the implications.

New York Times editorial, “The Amnesty Trap”, 4/5/06, p. A22:

All it [the Martinez-Hagel compromise bill on immigration] would do is give a face-saving assurance to hard-liners that immigrants would suffer adequately for their green cards and allow Republicans to reassure suspicious constituents: this is so not amnesty.

Ah, GenX so! How in style is that?

GenX so — so-called because it seems to have first appeared in the speech of Generation Xers (in the 80s, with the movie Heathers as a major boost for its spread) — is recognizable in speech by its characteristic high-rising-falling intonation (which distinguishes it from ordinary intensifying so, even when the intensifier is accented), but can be detected in writing only through its syntactic context: clear cases of GenX so occur in contexts that otherwise are not available for intensifiers — with dates and similar time expressions (“That is, like, so 1980s”, “It was so two years ago”), proper nouns and pronouns (“This is so Iceland”, “It’s so you”), absolute adjectives (“You are so dead!”), negatives (“It’s so not entertaining”, “A pizza delivery man who can’t find a campus address is so not my problem”), and VPs (“We so don’t have a song”, “Parker so wanted to be included”, “I am so hitting you with the September issue of Vogue!”). There are cases — like the title of this posting — that aren’t so easy to classify, but the Times editorial’s so is a solid example of a GenX use, with a negative.