GenX so

Today’s Zits has Jeremy using intensifier so modifying a verb: one type of what I’ve called GenX so (named that for its spread in people from Generation X):

The stereotypical associations of GenX so are to young white women (in the U.S.), no doubt because of its prominence in the movies Heathers (1988) and Clueless (1994). Studies of actual usage (though admittedly small in scale) suggest that the actual association with women, while apparently real, is smaller than the stereotype would suggest; and as the GenXers have aged, they seem to have carried this usage with them, and it’s spread to many people not in GenX (like me). For some assessment of these factors, see the 2007 paper by Douglas Kenter, Eric Lee, and Rowyn McDonald (written for me in an undergraduate seminar on linguistic innovations), available here.

Intensifier so has been around as a modifier of scalar adjectives and adverbs for a very long time; the innovation is its spread to other contexts. As the Dec. 2005 draft additions to OED2 on so have it:

slang (chiefly U.S.). As an intensifier, forming non-standard grammatical constructions. Cf. sense 14a.

a. Modifying a noun, or an adjective or adverb which does not usually admit comparison: extremely, characteristically.

Quot. 1923 represents an isolated use, app. without influence on later development of the sense. [1923    R. Firbank Flower beneath Foot i. 16   What can you see in her‥? She’s so housemaid.]

1979    ‘W. Allen’ & M. Brickman Manhattan in Four Films W. Allen (1982) 194   Yale: He’s a big Bergman fan, you know. Mary: Oh, please, you know. God, you’re so the opposite! I mean, you write that absolutely fabulous television show.

1988    D. Waters Heathers (film script) 14   Grow up, Heather. Bulimia’s so ’86.

2001    Toronto Star 7 Apr. m2/3   Got ya, sucker! You are so dead!

2001    Heat 28 Apr. 81/2   Don’t be expecting it to be cosy‥. The kid gloves are so off.

2004    Independent (Tabloid ed.) 14 July i. 27 (headline)    Falling out of fashion: why African models are so last year.

b. Modifying a verb: definitely, decidedly. Freq. in negative constructions.

1994    A. Heckerling Clueless (Buff Rev. pages) 14   Oh thank you, Josh, I so need lessons from you on how to be cool.

1996    J. Whedon Harvest in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Script Bk. (2000) 1st Season I. 79   We so don’t have time.

2000    Brill’s Content Aug. 110/1   It’s the sort of slangy, informal use of so you might hear a teen of the MTV set employ, as in: ‘Omigod, I would so marry Carson Daly if he asked me’.

2004    N.Y. Times (National ed.) 26 Dec. v. 8/3,   I am so getting the milkshake.

c. so not ——: emphatically not ——.

1997    N.Y. Mag. 25 Aug. 152/3   Napoleons are so not fun to eat.

1999    S. Rushdie Ground beneath her Feet (2000) xvi. 501   We guess communism just got buried in the rubble there somewhere. And those Ceauşescus? So not missed.

2005    J. M. Czech Grace Happens xi. 62   You’ve seen the carousel and it’s so not cool to be seen here if you’re over nine years old.

I’ve included all the cites in the entry, so that you can get some feel for the range of uses and users. In particular, you can see the spread of GenX so from use specifically by the young to wider uses, connoting informality and hipness.

I’ve been collecting occurrences of GenX so (in an unsystematic way) since 2004. What follows, for anyone who’s interested, is my current file of examples. (Please don’t try to do statistics of any kind on this data; I collect data from things I read and hear, and that’s so not a random sample of the material out there. In particular, that there are so many cites in gay contexts doesn’t say anything at all about GenX so and homosexuality.)

1.  From Jed Davis on the newsgroup soc.motss on 2/2/04:

Michael Wharton writes:

And “the sodomites after decades of illegal buttfucking” sounds soooo much like a certain line from a certain ST:TNG episode.

That is *so* not an image I needed.

2.  Jerry Scott & Rick Kirkman, “Baby Blues” strip, 6/7/04:

Woman:  Okay, Bunny, let’s say I did agree to watch your kids while you and Butch go on this “emergency” trip to Hawaii…

Woman: …When, exactly, would you be going?

Butch: Taxi’s here!

Bunny:  What part of “emergency” don’t you understand?

Woman: I am SO going to get even with you.

3. Michael Thomas Ford, That’s Mr. Faggot to You (Alyson Books, 1999), p. 89:

“Are you going to not do something just because a boy doesn’t want you to?” asks Tiffany.

“That is so ’80s.”

4.  Steve Whipple, letter to Out magazine, August 2004, p. 20:

The only thing “over” about Madonna are these types of articles—so 1993.

5.  Mike McKinley on soc.motss, 7/29/04:

We *so* need to deliver a painting to a client in San Francisco — it’s bought and boxed.  What to do?   What to do?

6.  Alex Ross, “Björk’s Saga”, The New Yorker 8/23/04, p. 49:

[Björk:]  A look of pleasure crossed her face as she studied photographic evidence of the catastrophe.  “This is so Iceland,” she says.

7.  Scott Safier on soc.motss, 9/1/04:

ObYouSawItHereFirst: That is *so* Ellen…

8.  Walter Kirn, “Forget It?”, NYT Magazine 9/12/04:

A friend of mine said something horrible recently: “I’m just so over 9/11.”

… That’s when my friend made her comment, adding this: “I’m ashamed of myself, but it’s true. I’m totally over it.” [note intensifier totally]

9.   Matthew Klam, “Fear and Laptops on the Campaign Trail”, NYT Magazine 9/26/04, p. 47:

I couldn’t figure it out. Why was she so excited about working for MTV?  MTV is for 9-year-olds. It’s so 1992.

10.  Garry Trudeau “Doonesbury” cartoon, 11/6/04:

A:… What am I really thinking?

B:  That things run so much more smoothly when the Supreme Court picks our president!

A:  I was thinking no such thing!

B:  No?  My bad.  Apologies.

A:  Okay, I’m thinking it now.

B:  Well, it just seems so you.

11. From Lee Rudolph on soc.motss, 7/26/01:

Mike McKinley <mpmck@mail.utexas.edu> writes:

Ellen lives in San Francisco?  I thought she taught at Columbia.

That is, like, *so* 1980s.

12.  Maureen Dowd, op-ed piece in NYT, 11/18/04, p. A29:

Not flatter the king?  Listen to dissenting viewpoints?  Rulers who admit they’ve erred?

It’s all so B.C. (Before Cheney).

13.  Robbie Daw, “Worst Fashion Trends Still Running Rampant Amongst the Gays”, Instinct Dec. 2004, p. 65:

Guys, really. Give it a rest. Trucker caps are so incredibly over.

14.  Kate Clinton, “We’re still divine, darling”, Advocate 12/21/04, p. 47:

I also believe that all those anti-gay-marriage initiatives were used to get out the vote. We were so used: We were the wedgie, the butt-thong between the cheek of church and the cheek of state.

15.  Duncan Mitchel on soc.motss, 12/19/04:

You dutifully informed the newsgroup that the day of grass-roots, community-based activism was, like, so over.

16.  Nancy Franklin, “Women Gone Wild” (review of tv show “Desperate Housewives”), The New Yorker, 1/17/05, p. 92:

America is having a torrid love affair with “Desperate Housewives,” and I feel so left out.

17.  Andy Borowitz, “Real-Estate Note” (humor), The New Yorker, 1/24&31/05, p. 48:

But the home’s antiquated plumbing was too daunting, even for the plucky “Freaky Friday” star: “Quaint?  More like so last year!”

18.  Maureen Dowd, “Inherit the Windbag”, op-ed piece in NYT, 2/3/05, p. A27:

Personally, I’ve decided to stop evolving.  No point, really. Evolution is so 20th century.

19.  Character Willow, on a Buffy episode:

I tried to communicate with the spririt world, and I so wasn’t ready for that.

20. Letter from Richard Bunyan, April 2005 Genre, p. 10:

I am appalled that you would show a cigarette (albeit unlit) between the lips of your cover model (JAN/FEB ’05).  I mean, he’s certainly got better things to do with those lips.  And smoking is so not sexy.

21. John Polly, “Curtain Call”, on new Broadway shows, April 2005 Genre, p. 22, on “Sweet Charity”:

With numbers like “Big Spender” and “If They Could See Me Now,” we’re so there.

22.  Cartoon by Kim Warp, The New Yorker, 6/13&20/05, p. 82, one Buddhist monk to another:

“I am so past enlightenment.”

23.  Mike McKinley, soc.motss, 8/17/04:

Emoticons are so 1998.

24.  “Get off your ass, boy!”, Instinct, September 2005, p. 44:

Green surgical scrubs are so not your color.

25. Kathryn Campbell-Kibler in e-mail on 9/27/05, supplying a cite from LiveJournal:

And a pizza delivery man who can’t find a campus address is so not my problem. The fact that he doesn’t carry a phone with him to call the client is even more so not my problem.

26.  Dan Savage, The Commitment (Dutton, 2005), p. 88:

By late July of 2004, same-sex marriage in Canada was so six weeks ago. Lesbian and gay couples had been getting hitched up north since June 11.

27.  Savage, p. 89:

“Our love is so real,” these couples will tell themselves, “that we got married even though we’ve only been together for six weeks!  That’s how real our love is!”

These marriages, needless to say, so won’t last.

28.  Gwendolyn Alden Dean on soc.motss, 10/13/05:

Local politics is definitely something one does out of feelings of necessity and responsibility — it’s so not entertaining.

29. Made-up gay lines for “Dukes of Hazzards” clips, Instinct, October 2005, p. 19, guy to guy:

“You did not just say these jeans make my ass look big!  I am so hitting you with the September issue of Vogue!”

30. Mike Wood, editor’s column, Instinct, November 2005, p. 12:

Who you do need to know about are the outstanding men who comprise our annual Leading Men issue.  (Parker [Ray, previous editor in chief] so wanted to be included.  Don’t tell him, but he wasn’t even nominated.)

31. Tony Rzepela on soc.motss, 11/16/05:

Tragically, I’m seduced by Logo. It is just as nice as I thought it would be to be able to turn to a channel and get reliable glob content. Even if it’s trash. If they ever expand their “CBS News on Logo” to a reliably scheduled show, I am so there.

32.  Casey Spooner of electro-pop group Fischerspooner, quoted in “OutFront Archives”, Out, December 2005, p. 44:

“I was just busting some serious late-’90s moves,” he bantered between songs.  “The ’80s are  so over.  It’s all about the ’90s.”

33. “Going Steady” interview by Jonathan Riggs, Instinct, January 2006, p. 40:

RIGGS: What’s “your song” as a couple?

JARED: We so don’t have a song.

34.  Zits cartoon, 1/2/06, dialogue between little girl and teenaged boy:

G: I bet you don’t know what seven times nine is!

B: Sixty-three.

G: Eight times nine?

B: Seventy-two.

G: Nine times nine??

B: Eighty-one,

G: Wow-w-w

B [thinking to himself]: I could so dominate third grade!

35.  John Calendo on Nightcharm site, “Urchins of Venice:, 2/13/06:

In any case, the verdict is clear. Love them as we do, the men of Dolce & Gabbana — with all their lean ripped muscle — are so 15 minutes ago!

36.  Zits cartoon, 3/6/06, two teen boys:

Jeremy: Hector, I burned some CDs for the cross-country road trip!

Hector: Dude!

Jeremy: There’s “Driving Out of Town”, “Driving in the Rain”, “Driving After the Rain”, “Driving When It’s Partly Cloudy”, “Driving Uphill”, “Driving Downhill”,       “Driving Through States Whose Names Begin With a Vowel”. Then there’s the boxed set I call “Driving Just Because We Can.”

Hector: I can so not wait for this.

37.  Joann Kleinneiur, in conversation at the Stanford Humanities Center, 3/9/06:

And I thought, oh, this is so two years ago.

38.  T. Cooper, interviewed by James Withers, “One Wacky Lezzie”, Genre, March 2006, p. 23:

[Withers]  What’s your thing for Eminem?  Is it because he looks like porn star Jeremy Jordan?

[Cooper]  You are so on to me.

39.  Mike McKinley on soc.motss, 3/16/06, reacting to a report of a revamped version of “Liza with a Z” (he detests Liza M.):

I am so barfing!

40.  NYT 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.

41.  Genre, April 2006, “Real World Gay”, Joey Siesholtz interview with MTV’s Tyler, p. 21:

[Tyler]  Oooh. I am probably the least fashionable gay person you will ever see on TV. There’s a big thing this season about how gay America will so not want to fuck me after seeing me on TV…

42.  Insinct, May 2006, “Cornered!”, Joel Perry queries men at a Metropolitan Community Church in L.A., p. 45:

[Perry]  Prefer your guys with halos or horns?

[Rolando]  Halo.  Horns are so last year.

43.  New Yorker, 6/5/06, p. 89, Nancy Franklin, “All in the Game”, about money-show guy Jim Cramer on tv:

(He is said to be worth between fifty and a hundred million dollars.  His father gave him Business Week when he was nine, but I know that can’t be why he is so rich today, because my father also gave me articles from Business Week when I was that age, and I am, like, so not worth between fifty and a hundred million dollars.)

44.  amazon.com description of a Grant Barrett book (read 6/8/06):

More than 750 brand-new words that make “bling-bling” sound so five minutes ago For readers who want to be on the cutting edge of the English lexicon or for dedicated word geeks, The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English presents more than 750 words that have unofficially joined the English language.

45.  Kristin Veitch’s television column, Out magazine, March 2007, p. 44:

“My friends were shocked.  They had no idea!”

This is how George Takei — known as Mr. Sulu to millions of Star Trek fans around the world — describes the reaction to his coming-out in 2005.

He so isn’t serious.

46. Anthony Bourdain, The Nasty Bits, p. 285:

oooh.  I’m so bad.  I’m so street …

47. Instinct interviewer to Pauley Perrette, March 2007, p. 22:

I so hate you right now.

48. Christos Tsirbas, “How to disappear completely … and find yourself”, Instinct, March 2007, p. 50:

Welcome to your wired accelerated gay existence, where everyone else is so five minutes ago and you’re struggling to stay five minutes from now.

49.  Style dossier, Details January/February 2007, p. 87:

A sweaty forehead is inevitable, but does it necessitate covering your skull Long Beach-style?  “It’s so notice-me,” Silver says.

50. Headline for Deborah Solomon’s interview column, about Suze Orman, NYT Magazine 2/25/07, p. 19:

She’s So Money

51. Priest’s thought balloon while hearing confession, Mark Parisi cartoon 9/8/06:

Oh, this is SO going in my blog…

52. Rod Williams on soc.motss, 4/18/07:

We’re going next month sometime.  I’m just afraid Miss Turner and Mr. Irwin will be sooo over it after schlepping this production around the world for the last three or four years or so.

53. Sharon Waxman, “A Reality Show Confronts the Reality of Real Estate”, NYT 5/17/07, p. B1:

Things are so never boring with Tori Spelling.

54.  Zippy cartoon of 7/31/07:

Zippy: Tell me, do you read reviews of your stuff?

Artwork: I am my stuff.  I get sustenance from deep inside.

Zippy: So you don’t need or seek validation from other people you don’t know.

Artwork: No.  I’m inner-directed.

Zippy: That is so fourteenth century!

55. Arctic Circle cartoon of 9/12/07:

First penguin: It [my computer] deleted all my Britney Spears songs from iTunes.

Second penguin: Very smart.  We are so over her now.

56.  Wm. Safire “On Language” column, NYT Magazine 12/14/08, p. 26:

Over an article by the Times reporter Carl Hulse referring satirically on second reference to the banned “S-word”: “ ‘Recovery’ Is In; ‘Stimulus’ Is So Seven Months Ago.”

57. Zits cartoon, 2/26/09:

Mother (looking out window): Looks like another gray day.

Son: I’m so over February.

58. Facebook group found 8/1/11:

I SO would’ve sat next to Forrest Gump on the bus!!

[many many other examples of “I SO would’ve”]

59. From Larry Horn in e-mail  9/21/11:

… One of [Tricia Irwin’s] data points reminds me that I’ve encountered “You are so busted” quite a bit myself — not directly at me by a Gen-X cop, luckily, but on TV shows and in movies. I have my own favorite recent example heard in the wild, which has the virtue of having been uttered spontaneously rather than being part of a movie or sitcom script like so many of the standardly cited examples:

The speaker is Mike Golic, sports commentator (on ESPN radio’s “Mike and Mike” show). Golic is a former professional football player (defensive tackle, if that’s relevant — it does correctly imply a very large size and macho type demeanor) born and raised in the outskirts of Cleveland (probably not relevant). What is relevant is that he’s 38 years old, which I guess does place him within Gen X, but he doesn’t fit the informal Heathers/Friends/Buffy/Woody Allen sort of profile. Golic is referring here to the Buffalo Bills’ surprisingly wise decision over the off-season to stick with quarterback Ryan Kilpatrick, who is now playing superbly this year, a major surprise in the light of the fact that he came into the league as an unheralded college player from Harvard, not exactly a football factory.

“They had to see what they had [at quarterback]. He is so answering that question right now.”

60.  AMZ to Larry Horn in e-mail 9/21/11:

now checking “You are so busted”. 448,000 raw ghits. wow.

8 Responses to “GenX so

  1. Andy Rogers Says:

    What about “OO!” ?

  2. Sam Scott Says:

    I’m SO sending this post to my friends.🙂 In all seriousness, I was intrigued to see your citation of a “Buffy” episode. That show, I believe, has inspired a lot of linguistic commentary — though, judging by the content your this blog, you probably already knew that!

    Regardless, thanks for the trip down memory line from all of these old shows and movies!

  3. arnold zwicky Says:

    Now see the treatment on the Yale microsyntax site.

  4. GenXso at 60? « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] of the intensifier here, with links to other material and a collection of examples. There are three contexts in which this […]

  5. Cyanide and Happiness roundup | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] treated as an acronym. And in the last panel, an instance of GenX so. (Some discussion on this blog here and […]

  6. Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Doctor Who: Fifty Stories For Fifty Years: 2009 Says:

    […] This has happened to such an extent that the phenomenon has become known among linguists as “Gen-X so” (first coined by Arnold Zwicky in 2001 in a post to the mailing list of the American Dialect […]

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