December 5th, 2013 .

Because grammar

Hannele Kivinen

Last time I was here, I wrote about the best way to kill an unwanted neologism: just don’t use it. It turns out that my post was a timely one, as neologisms definitely seem to be a hot topic as of late. “Selfie” was voted word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary about a month ago, and just yesterday Time Magazine published their annual poll of the worst newly coined terms and phrases. Readers get to pick which one they’d most like to see annihilated (poll closes next week, so cast your vote soon!). Among the offenders: “awesome sauce”, “bromance” (I’m apparently not alone in my dislike of that word), “presh”, “swagger”, and the suddenly omnipresent “twerk”.

Scrolling down the list, one word gave me a little spark of surprise: “because”. It’s hard to think of a more functional word, so why would it be nominated? However, its inclusion isn’t due to the meaning of the word itself. Rather, its grammatical role has shifted. “Because” used to be just a subordinating conjunction, linking the clauses in a sentence. But very recently, it started pulling double duty as a preposition, directly introducing single nouns, verbs, or adjectives. Usually this form of “because” is used for a comical effect, often as either an ironic, nonsensical, or ridiculously vague response to a question. But why not just keep all the little extra words that serve to connect “because” to the noun, verb, or adjective? Well, because reasons.

If you’re interested in the evolution of “because”, Atlantic Monthly has a great article about its origins and also includes some really funny examples. It’s worth checking out.

And while I admit that this new use for “because” can be pretty amusing when done well, I’m still not convinced that it will stick. Last year’s Time Magazine poll was won by the acronym YOLO (You Only Live Once) — but according to all of the hip trendsetters that live on the internet, YOLO has long since jumped the shark. There seems to be a backlash when words like this go mainstream: the more frequently they’re used, the less exciting and fashionable they become. So maybe the best way to kill an annoying neologism is actually to overuse it straight into uncoolness?

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