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We know I am so excited. simply means "I'm very excited.", and the word "so" is simply an intensifier.

But, then I sometimes hear "I am just so excited." Halle Bailey (see:00:23-00:27)

They both still mean the same to me as a non-native speaker. "so+adjective" and "just so+adjective" mean the same to me.

But I wonder if they also mean the same to a native speaker because it is simply another version of saying "I'm very very excited."?

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    She is someone who is answering fatuous questions from a reporter. She already said how excited she is and seems to be struggling to stay positive in the face of intrusive questioning. Aug 21, 2023 at 17:48
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    ... I love the way she says "I'm dying to sleep, now!" to terminate the interview. Aug 21, 2023 at 17:59
  • Isn't ''just'' just used for emphasis? Aug 22, 2023 at 21:57
  • The "just" is emphasis. There's nothing more to say.
    – Fattie
    Aug 23, 2023 at 11:36

6 Answers 6

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"Just so excited" could very well mean sarcasm, where the person is obviously not excited and says it in a sarcastic way (tone). It does not necessarily mean "very very excited".

However in this case (as @weathervane mentioned), she is trying her best to appear positive to the reporters and putting in words that don't add any significant meaning.

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    But "so excited" or just "excited" can be sarcasm, depending on tone of voice etc. So there's no difference in meaning.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 22, 2023 at 13:17
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    There is a difference in meaning when there is a change of tone @StuartF
    – DialFrost
    Aug 22, 2023 at 14:04
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The word just has little to no semantic meaning in that example.

Note that there's another nearly identical use of just moments before at around 0:13 in the recording:

And, you know, we're just so happy to be here

I would call this use of just a discourse marker or maybe filler.

From the linked article on discourse markers:

A discourse marker is a word or a phrase that plays a role in managing the flow and structure of discourse. Since their main function is at the level of discourse (sequences of utterances) rather than at the level of utterances or sentences, discourse markers are relatively syntax-independent and usually do not change the truth conditional meaning of the sentence. Examples of discourse markers include the particles oh, well, now, then, you know, and I mean, and the discourse connectives so, because, and, but, and or.

Put maybe a little more simply, a discourse marker does not have meaning on its own, nor does it change the core meaning of the sentence, but it can chage the vibe. That is, it can make the sentence sound more serious ("Look, John, if you don't act now..."), less serious ("I, like, almost died"), show agreement ("I know, that restaurant is the best"), etc.

But discourse markers, because they don't have much content, can also function as filler words, whose only purpose is to fill in a pause, perhaps while the speaker is gathering their thoughts, or maybe to change the meter or rhythm of the utterance.

The first example I quoted seems to show this. The "and", "you know", and "just" seem to be more like fillers - allowing the interviewee to think about what she wants to say, without pausing and remaining silent.

The second use might be the same, that is, a filler, except that it fills in a much briefer pause, so it's not as obvious. It also might be some kind of discourse marker, whose subtle meaning is not entirely clear. Maybe it's something like a hedge, meant to suggest a degree of modesty.


Further reading on just as a hedge: I just think. . . : The meaning and discourse role of just

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    It's an American way of signifying enthusiasm, whether real or simulated. I just love being in England, and your castles are just so amazing! Aug 21, 2023 at 19:24
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    @MichaelHarvey about Oxbridge Unis, "They are so Herry Padder." Aug 21, 2023 at 19:40
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    Semantically it could mean that the only emotion they are experience is excitement: "I'm just (only) experiencing excitement", rather than a mix of excitement and other more negative emotions. But often it is less meaningful.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 22, 2023 at 13:19
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"just so" and "really very" are equivalent phrases.

The words "just" and "really" are both words added to affirm that what is being said is true (which are both often used sarcastically when the true intent is actually that what is being said is false).

Indeed, part of the reason to insert one of these words is to make the question of whether the statement was intended to be true ambiguous, which allows someone who said it, if it proves to be a problem and is false to say "Just kidding! Didn't you realize that I was being sarcastic?" more plausibly.

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I cannot point to a source for this, but my intuition is that "I'm so excited" is something you might say spontaneously to indicate your excitement, and "I'm just so excited" is something you might say if someone had asked you about your feelings. If you're being interviewed, you might have the sense that the interviewer would like you to say something interesting and unexpected about how you feel, but in fact all you have to offer is just that you are excited to be involved in the project.

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My intuition is that "I'm just so excited" is shorthand for "I know I'm acting weird, but it's just because I'm so excited". I don't think that's what she meant in the interview, but that's how I'd interpret it.

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As a native midwestern (US) speaker, I'd suggest that a good general interpretation of "I'm just so ___" would be to imagine the sentence as continuing "that I can't think of anything else other than how ___ I am". While this does imply that the person is extremely ___, I would generally perceive that the level of ___-ness is sufficient to literally overwhelm the speaker.

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