1. Why the new “because” isn’t a preposition (but is actually cooler)

    With the recent elevation of “because x” to Word of the Year 2013 (as in because reasons, because awesome), there has been some confusion about how exactly to describe this new construction. Is it because+noun, as described by the earliest commenters? Is it because-as-preposition, as described by some other people? Or is it something else, perhaps not exclusive to because? (Spoiler alert: this is where I’m going to end up.)

    There has been a lot of discussion about this on twitter and in various comment sections, but I’ve yet to see a post laying out diagnostics in full. I’m going to concentrate on the arguments for because as preposition, because a quick look at the data (because useful, because yay) clearly shows that the “because x” construction isn’t limited to nouns. 

    What is a preposition, exactly?

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  2. image: Download

    American Dialect Society Word of the Year - ‘because’ as in ‘because reasons’. 
Follow-up post to come.

    American Dialect Society Word of the Year - ‘because’ as in ‘because reasons’.
    Follow-up post to come.

     
  3. I did an interview with CBC Spark earlier this week about the “because x” construction and other internet language phenomena, including “I can’t even/I’ve lost the ability to can”, the general pattern of stylized verbal incoherence mirroring emotional incoherence, and the porous boundary between “slang” language and “canon” language. (Dear tumblr: does that mean that slang is like the fanfic of language? Because I support this.)

    It was a lot of fun, and now the interview is finally up! So you can hear me talking to Nora Young as part of a longer podcast/radio show (Spark in general is about technology and culture and it’s pretty great). It’s up right now on the CBC website, or on iTunes, or on CBC radio/SiriusXM on Sunday at 1pm local time in most Canadian/American timezones if you like radios. 

    For more on internet language, check out the original “because reasons” post that started it all, my more recent update on where I think the “because x” construction came from, and this list of all my internet language posts. There’s also a previous Spark interview with David Crystal on internet language.

     
  4. Where “because noun” probably came from

    There’s been a flurry of new articles recently on the “because noun” construction, many of which quote a post I made over a year ago. I have some new thoughts since then, including a different hypothesis about where the “because noun” constructions come from than the other articles, but first some quotes. Because context. From The Atlantic

    You probably know it better, however, as explanation by way of Internet—explanation that maximizes efficiency and irony in equal measure. I’m late because YouTube. You’re reading this because procrastination.

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  5. ignoranceisanescape:

    syntactician:

    allthingslinguistic:

    syntactician:

    because can be followed by a finite clause:

    I left him because [he sold my prize-winning armadillo].

    It can be followed by a prepositional phrase:

    I left him because [of his unbearable stench]. 

    But a non-standard usage is gaining wider and wider acceptance, namelybecause+noun (often a proper noun):

    I can’t come out tonight because Skyrim.


    This isn’t a straight nonstandard equivalent to the other uses - it’s different. It means something like ‘I’m so busy being totally absorbed by X that I don’t need to explain further, and you should know about this because it’s a completely valid incredibly important thing to be doing’. This page is all posts that were tagged with #because Skyrim.

    But has a similar use (taken from the same Tumblr page):

    Okay I’d totally love to read my dash and everything but Skyrim.

    I like it.

    I think there may be some restrictions on which nouns are possible in this construction. For example, while I think it’s fine to say:

    I can’t come out tonight because homework/math.

    I can’t come out tonight because essays/readings.

    I can’t come out tonight because busyness. 

    I don’t think it works to say:

    *I can’t come out tonight because too much/lots of/difficult homework. 

    *I can’t come out tonight because essay/my essay/an essay/this essay.

    *I can’t come out tonight because busy. 

    So it seems like the because+noun construction really must consist of a bare noun, not a noun with a determiner or an adjective. However, I think I might be able to be okay with: 

    ?I can never get to bed at a reasonable hour because interesting people on the internet!

    Also, I think the title “because reasons” may be an even more specialized version of this use, actually. Because you can paraphrase “I can’t come out tonight because Skyrim/homework” as “I can’t come out tonight because OF Skyrim/homework”, but I don’t think “I don’t like him because reasons” paraphrases well as “I don’t like him because OF reasons”. 

    Agree with everything except the last one - I think you can paraphrase as because of reasons. To me, sounds the same. But I’m 30, so what do I know about internet speak :)

    With regards to the last one, “because reasons” is actually a paraphrase of “because of reasons” which originated because of this comic:

    image

    To me “because of reasons” makes more sense than “because reasons” because you would need the preposition and the noun. On the internet, though, I think the genuine rule is “the less grammatical sense we make, the more we are able to drive home the idea that we have been driven to the point of incoherency by our overwhelming emotions/desires etc.”

    I hadn’t seen that comic before, so that’s cool! But I think the point of the last panel is that monocle-guy is so overwhelmed that he isn’t even using a standard construction in “because of reasons”. 

    I think that for “because of reasons” and “because reasons” I can only say them with heavy emphasis on “reasons” which is why I think of them as marked. So while I can say some words in this construction with or without emphasis, that’s not the case for “reasons”. 

    I can’t go out tonight because of HOMEWORK/homework, which is really annoying. 

    I can’t go out tonight because of REASONS/*reasons, which is really annoying. 

    It sounds especially weird when I put several words after it. 

    Update: Where “because noun” probably came from

     
  6. syntactician:

    because can be followed by a finite clause:

    I left him because [he sold my prize-winning armadillo].

    It can be followed by a prepositional phrase:

    I left him because [of his unbearable stench]. 

    But a non-standard usage is gaining wider and wider acceptance, namelybecause+noun (often a proper noun):

    I can’t come out tonight because Skyrim.


    This isn’t a straight nonstandard equivalent to the other uses - it’s different. It means something like ‘I’m so busy being totally absorbed by X that I don’t need to explain further, and you should know about this because it’s a completely valid incredibly important thing to be doing’. This page is all posts that were tagged with #because Skyrim.

    But has a similar use (taken from the same Tumblr page):

    Okay I’d totally love to read my dash and everything but Skyrim.

    I like it.

    I think there may be some restrictions on which nouns are possible in this construction. For example, while I think it’s fine to say:

    I can’t come out tonight because homework/math.

    I can’t come out tonight because essays/readings.

    I can’t come out tonight because busyness. 

    I don’t think it works to say:

    *I can’t come out tonight because too much/lots of/difficult homework. 

    *I can’t come out tonight because essay/my essay/an essay/this essay.

    *I can’t come out tonight because busy. 

    So it seems like the because+noun construction really must consist of a bare noun, not a noun with a determiner or an adjective. However, I think I might be able to be okay with: 

    ?I can never get to bed at a reasonable hour because interesting people on the internet!

    Also, I think the title “because reasons” may be an even more specialized version of this use, actually. Because you can paraphrase “I can’t come out tonight because Skyrim/homework” as “I can’t come out tonight because OF Skyrim/homework”, but I don’t think “I don’t like him because reasons” paraphrases well as “I don’t like him because OF reasons”. 

    Update: Where “because noun” probably came from