In on-the-go Hong Kong, shopping at 7-Eleven is a way of life for much of the population. In addition to drinks, snacks, and candy, they stock things you might need in an emergency (such as umbrellas, Crazy glue, and evenâ€¦ underwear!)
Many 7-11’s are open 24 hours, and in some neighborhoods, they even function as a sort of bar.
Go to 7-Eleven enough and occasionally you’ll notice weird things. Stopping by the other day, there was an interesting sign that caught our attention.
Instead of advertising several drinks as new, there was a sign declaring the drinks as “So New!” which seemed a little overly hyper.
In Chinese the sign only says ‘new’, but in English it says “So New!” which got us wondering what the root of the ‘so’ exclamation is?
Does adding the word ‘so’ before ‘new’ actually have its root in Cantonese?
One theory is that Cantonese speakers don’t like things to be just one syllable. If a word has just one syllable, often you will hear it said with an additional sound or some sort of modifier tagged on.
This preference for two syllables actually carries over into English in Hong Kong. For example, names that are one syllable (like ‘Jon’,) are sometimes doubled up (‘Jon Jon’,) or have an extra sound added to make them more palatable (‘Ah Jon’).
Another trait often found in Cantonese is for words to be made more extreme. For example, in places where you hear the words boring, tired, hungry, or painful, you would typically here people say ‘very boring’, ‘very tired’, ‘very hungry’, ‘very painful’, usually by adding the word ‘ho’. It’s nearly the equivalent of saying “so boring” or “so tired!” etc.
For native English speakers however, adding the extra ‘so’ in this case seems a little extreme and unusualâ€¦ but the end result is that it got our attention – so maybe it works! 😉