Yes you can start a sentence with so, but try to avoid saying, “So . . . you can start a sentence with so.” The introductory so is a verbal virus like well, um and like. It's not incorrect but it sure can be annoying. It's nerdspeak that started in Silicon Valley years ago and has since spread across the country. In TV interviews Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg begins almost every sentence with so, as does Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Economists, scientists, engineers, and computer experts who attempt to translate complex information into layman's terms often signal the translation with “So . . .”
Not every introductory so is annoying. We all say things like, “So how was your vacation?” or “So have you decided on a college?” When Zuckerberg and Yellen start sentences with so, the usage is non-viral. When the introductory so creeps into everyday usage by ordinary people, that’s a virus, a speech habit that sounds condescending. If someone talks down to us, the tone makes us feel so-so, especially when that so-and-so intentionally assumes a superior attitude. So lose the so.
The other Bronte sister Anne, little sister of Charlotte (author of Jane Eyre) and Emily (author of Wuthering Heights), was a novelist too. Anne Bronte wrote under the pseudonym Acton Bell. Her second novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) is the new pick for the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Book Club.
The early feminist work tells the story of a woman married to an abusive husband who parties with a wild crowd. She runs away, settles with her child in another town, tries to survive in a hostile social environment, and in the end falls in love with a local farmer.
When first published the book was widely read because it was considered scandalous. After Anne died at the age of 29, her sister Charlotte pre-vented Wildfell Hall from ever being published again.
Two themes made Wildfell Hall scandalous. First there was the legal question. In 1848 English women could not own property, enter into contracts, sue for divorce or win custody of their children. Not until the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 could women in England live independently if they no longer wanted to be married.
The second scandalous theme was decadence and moral decay of both men and women. Anne got away with describing wild parties, alcohol, drugs, and adulterous affairs because she wrote under a man’s name.
Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain is the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Book Club selection of the month. It’s the first non-fiction choice by the 2-year-old book club that let’s guest author’s select titles. The author then guide readers via the club’s Facebook page, providing commentary and answering questions. Guest author and historian Adam Hochschild calls Life on the Mississippi “one of the greatest non-fiction works ever.”
Why is Twain’s travelogue so important? Hochschild points out that Life on the Mississippi is one of the few books about work. Twain goes into detail about the actual job of steamboat pilot as the book describes voyages on the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Minnesota. Hochschild adds: “When you are writing about an extraordinary, fascinating profession at the peak of its glory, you don’t have to make things up.”
The Mockingbird: Metaphor for Evolution. Charles Darwin couldn’t figure out why mockingbirds in the Galapagos Islands differed on each island and on the South American mainland. Back in England a year after the voyage of the HMS Beagle in 1835, Darwin was going over his notes. His data contradicted accepted scientific doctrine that species could not change. Then, EUREKA! Darwin realized he was in new scientific territory. The mockingbird, along with Galapagos tortoises, were the proof that species evolved.
In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch warns his children not to kill a mockingbird. The songbird serves as a metaphor for innocence – the innocence of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. In light of its scientific importance, the mockingbird expands the metaphor to symbolize evolution. Prejudice is not a permanent human trait. Change is possible, including moral and cultural change. People – even racists and bigots – can evolve.
Harper Lee’s eulogy was a short speech by Wayne Flynt, retired history professor at Auburn University. The simple funeral for the author of To Kill a Mockingbird was held at the Monroeville, Alabama First United Methodist Church. 35-40 members of Lee’s inner circle attended. Lee had heard the speech, “Atticus’s Vision of Ourselves,” in 2006 when she was honored with an award in Birmingham, Alabama. According to Flynt, Lee hoped to die in her adopted home New York City and have her ashes scattered about Manhattan. But just in case she died in Monroeville, she told Flynt that she didn’t want any preachers at her funeral – just him reading the speech as her eulogy.
Lee was buried next to her father, A.C. Lee and her sister Alice Lee in the cemetery adjoining the church. Lee’s father was a lawyer and the model for the character Atticus Finch.
You can read Harper Lee’s eulogy at http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2016/02/read_the_eulogy_for_harper_lee.html