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Because X: The New Use of an Old Word

because

On January 3, approximately 200 linguists at the American Dialect Society conference gathered to vote on what their 2013 Word of the Year should be. While creative coinages sharknado, doge, bitcoin, selfie, Obamacare, and twerk all received nominations, it was an old word used in new ways that most excited linguistics this year: because.

In the official ADS press release, Ben Zimmer describes the “new grammatical possibilities” of because: “No longer does because have to be followed by of or a full clause. Now one often sees tersely worded rationales like ‘because science’ or ‘because reasons.’” Jessica Love captures the tone of because saying, “It’s a fun, pithy, hand-wavy way of summing up a situation.” Mark Liberman notes that the new because “seems usually to be associated with an implication that the referenced line of reasoning is weak.”

English speakers have been having a lot of fun with this new construction. My favorite recent sighting comes from a November 2013 film review of About Time on the NPR blog Monkey See. In this movie Bill Nighy’s character reveals to his son that all the men in their family can travel back in time to a moment they’ve already lived. Chris Klimek writes:

Nighy claims he’s used his life-extending powers to get more reading done. I inferred that he’s also spent off-the-books eons whoring around Bangkok or wherever, because: Bill Nighy.

Where did the new because come from?
The origin of this use is uncertain, though there are theories. Neal Whitman presents one idea: because x is an extension of the older construction because, hey with the hey lopped off as in this line from a 1987 Saturday Night Live sketch:

If you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just go real limp, because maybe you’ll look like a dummy and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy.

Gretchen McCulloch, however, is skeptical of this origin story. She instead looks to the meme “because of reasons,” as popularized by the Three Word Phrase comic #139 published in 2011. She finds it more likely that this phrase was shortened to “because reasons” than that a hey was dropped. Stan Carey points out the meme “because race car” made the Internet rounds around the same time, but quickly adds that because x was used before 2011, and offers a slew of examples. Perhaps because x developed from a combination of uses coexisting on the linguistic landscape. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

Note that this sort of linguistic development is happening beyond just because. Carey also observed similar constructions with but, also, so, in conclusion, and thus. Think: I haven’t had coffee yet, thus grumpy. Whether or not this alters etymological theories is still up in the air.

What should we call it?
Linguists use various titles for this construction; some refer to it as because NOUN, others as because x, and still others refer to it as prepositional because. As its usage evolves, some names appear to be better suited than others. Because NOUN has already been proven to be too narrow for the versatility of this new use. While this covers some common examples, it doesn’t capture because followed by other parts of speech including verbs (I’m buying this jacket because want), adjectives (Must sleep now because tired), adverbs (I’m not going out in sub-zero degree weather, because honestly), or interjections (because yay!).

Many experts have been calling the new because a preposition, though this is up for debate. Neal Whitman calls it a preposition. Joe at Mr. Verb also prefers the prepositional distinction thanks to because’s accepted origin–from the two-word prepositional phrase by cause. McCulloch, on the other hand, breaks down why she thinks the name prepositional because falls apart, discussing how some noun phrases are okay with this new because while others are not. This, she says, is not typical of prepositions. Geoffrey Pullum over at Language Log address these concerns with a counterargument, saying that prepositions are far more flexible than “standard dictionary definitions” make them out to be. There is currently not any sort of consensus among linguists over the part of speech of this new because, though this might change as the discussion continues.

I personally feel that because x is the safest moniker for the time being. As far as the part of speech goes, the grammar classification might further shift as English speakers play with and develop the new uses of because x.

Have you heard or seen examples of this construction? Do you use it yourself?

86 Comments

  1. So, Like, Yeah — Reveries -  April 8, 2014 - 2:00 am

    [...] shorthand construct ‘because X,’ (e.g., because science), “recently celebrated by the American Dialect Society as the [...]

    Reply
  2. nemoian -  February 13, 2014 - 9:34 pm

    I don’t really think it is a new way to use the word. It is just removing excess words.

    Reply
  3. Martin Cosby -  February 7, 2014 - 12:27 am

    Is it the first of April already?
    This is juvenile, lazy… and most of all ugly. I have heard the argument that the language is changing all the time, which I accept; but usually the change is in response to a need, or to create an elegant solution. Just what, however, is the point of this?

    Reply
  4. Pete -  February 5, 2014 - 2:56 pm

    I like the new meaning, it makes me as dumb as the new generation. Come on this is just pure laziness.

    Reply
  5. Carissa -  January 31, 2014 - 12:36 am

    Personally, I use the construction “because x” quite frequently. We live in an age where we take as many shortcuts with our language as possible, and it’s easier to say “I want this because reasons” than it would be to lay out every single reason that you want the thing.

    Reply
  6. Dennis R. Preston -  January 28, 2014 - 10:14 am

    Polonius Monk doesn’t know what a pluperfect is but is sure sore that some usages he doesn’t like a going around. Could we filter out comments from those who don’t know what a pluperfect is?

    Reply
  7. AA -  January 25, 2014 - 2:59 pm

    Old English was also once a highly inflected language, but clearly, we are no longer required to learn for instance a dative case. Even Romance languages are much less inflected compared to Latin. Who knows how long this “because x” usage will survive, but regardless, whether it is due to laziness, idiocy, efficiency, or language economy, people like to simplify things.

    I don’t understand why some people have such a problem with this. People are no longer complaining about the absence of the dative case (in English), though I wouldn’t be surprised if there were such people way back when…

    Reply
  8. Kpuc -  January 23, 2014 - 7:32 pm

    This is terrible. I have never heard one person speak like this. Words like “Because X” should not be added to the dictionary. It took centuries for the English language to form. Why should we add words, or change their uses, that have been used for only a few months?

    I do understand that languages change due to the influences of culture, but not when a very small percentage of a society uses these words in this context.

    Reply
  9. Cat Conklin -  January 22, 2014 - 10:13 pm

    I love the new use. It is natural for language change to include new usage of old words and dropping of extra words that, over time, become implied without having to use them. It isn’t that people are being lazy, but spoken word is not the same as the written. Most of what we say is in context and clear speech is sometimes the shortest way of saying what needs to be said. The description of “because x” being used as a response to something obvious is the way I have most often seen it used. I’m so happy to have read this article, I recognized “because x” as soon as I started to read, though I had not previously thought about the new usage.

    Reply
  10. Cindy Finch Mass -  January 22, 2014 - 9:53 pm

    @ Jason – Twerking is SO not a good choice! It’s nauseating enough to have to recall the performance travesty of stanky Miley Cyrus, we don’t need any more reminders of this. Ewww !

    Reply
  11. kevintrump -  January 22, 2014 - 1:34 pm

    Thanks for the post. I was puzzled by what I thought was the ungrammatical title of Childish Gambino’s new album “Because the Internet.” Now I am better informed.

    Reply
  12. BC -  January 22, 2014 - 7:00 am

    “Res ipsa loquitur,” Latin and used in the legal profession, means “the thing speaks for itself.” That’s all this is: the thing speaks for itself. As in my wife saying, “he gave dictionary.com an example in Latin. Because, BC.”

    Face-palm. Because, BC. Sigh.

    Reply
  13. Martin Murphy -  January 21, 2014 - 2:47 pm

    What say ? Because.

    Reply
  14. Anonymous -  January 21, 2014 - 6:53 am

    BECAUSE REASONS!!!!!

    Reply
  15. Anonymous -  January 21, 2014 - 6:20 am

    Doge was nominated? And they chose “because?” Much dissapointment. Very no. Wow.

    Reply
  16. Jimmy Vermeer -  January 20, 2014 - 6:34 am

    I remember seeing this in a Fredo & Pidjin comic where Pidgin sees a beautiful woman and all he can say is “I cannot words because boobs.”

    Reply
  17. Jason -  January 20, 2014 - 2:46 am

    Surely “twerk” is a much better word than “because”. “Because” is already a word and has had it’s deserved time at the top. I believe that new words should have preference. Because twerking is sexy. Why? BECAUSE!

    Reply
  18. ch3ru -  January 19, 2014 - 9:01 pm

    Because TL;DR, how the heck did this become about Minecraft?? o_O Oh wait, that’s right–because, internet!

    Reply
  19. Adapted Underdog -  January 17, 2014 - 8:21 pm

    Feel free to insert this on any meme. I may nod my head, signifying I do, in fact, understand that its intention is to garner laughter. I may even actually laugh.

    However, put this in a piece of literature and you will see a book slam shut and properly disposed of in the nearest trash receptacle.

    Reply
  20. Chrissa Link -  January 17, 2014 - 7:27 pm

    I know mothers have been using this word by itself for AGES!!!

    Kid: Why…..?
    Mom: BECAUSE!

    Reply
  21. KLJEWJKFBRLJFKRHF -  January 17, 2014 - 6:50 pm

    ,RNHFKNR,FRLKJFNRJFHLKRFNRJKFH BECAUSE

    Reply
  22. Yes im 11 and extremely more than u can imagine mature and smart ;) -  January 17, 2014 - 6:49 pm

    @MineCraft Stinks
    Stop acting like a child. Some people like minecraft, not that I do I think its rather boring and not addictive, but you must respect it. Even though minecraft is nothing too big, I don’t go around saying it stinks. ;)

    Reply
  23. DerpyHooves -  January 17, 2014 - 6:24 pm

    Hi Rainbow :P

    Reply
  24. RainbowDash -  January 17, 2014 - 6:21 pm

    (IF U don’t know who derpy is, search up on google images)

    Reply
  25. RainbowDash -  January 17, 2014 - 6:21 pm

    Ya because REALLY has to change. Derpy uses because ALOT….. u know, its really annoying :/

    Reply
  26. PoloniusMonk -  January 17, 2014 - 5:48 pm

    Why is this the American Dialect Society’s 2013 Word of the Year? Because dumb.

    I can’t see that there is anything new about this use of ‘because’. From the examples offered, it seems to be only the follow-on that’s changed, and that only in the direction of verbal laziness.

    I myself have yet to hear this use of ‘because’ out there in nature. Obviously, it is intended to show the speaker’s amusing cleverness. I suspect it is used by those same people younger than 50 who cannot use the word ‘say’, especially in the pluperfect, and whose disability makes them say idiotic things such as “I was like,” and “she was like” when they struggle to report the utterances of themselves and others.

    Reply
  27. Steven Kopischke -  January 17, 2014 - 3:46 pm

    I wonder if the genesis of the “because x” construct is simpler. Because…autocorrect.

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  28. An Awesome Minecrafter -  January 16, 2014 - 8:42 pm

    @2SQ:
    Okay, yeah, I Googled Radiohead. Hey, they were before my time!

    Reply
  29. Frisco -  January 16, 2014 - 2:42 pm

    I chalk this up to “text talk” making everyone’s brains lazier. At this point, if we continue the trend of “if enough people do something wrong long enough, we’ll make that the right way,” we should be seeing legal gun-toting elementary students and 90 mph speed limits any day now. . .

    Reply
  30. CLH -  January 16, 2014 - 2:35 pm

    Don’t drop that thun thun thun eh!

    Reply
  31. Sarin -  January 16, 2014 - 1:54 pm

    I forgot to finish my thoughts.

    There’s a difference between, “I like my dog because he’s cool.” and “Me dog cool, me like.”

    Reply
  32. Sarin -  January 16, 2014 - 1:39 pm

    “Because X” and “Because of” could both be used depending on the circumstance.

    “You shouldn’t invite them in because Sandra doesn’t like them.”
    “You shouldn’t invite them in because of Sandra’s dislike for them.”
    Then: “You shouldn’t invite them in because of Sandra.”

    I hear people use “because of” the last way, every now and then.

    “You can’t do that because of the implications.”
    “You can’t do that because the implications.”
    Then: “You can’t do that because implications.”

    This just like “because want”, you assume the words between “because” and “implications”. It hurts me to actually type.

    “Because want” and “because yay!” are used in speech and not in writing for a reason. I never even read the word “yay” before in a serious piece of writing. It’s like the words “hurray” and “whoopee”. They’re exclamations. My browser doesn’t even recognize the words “hurray” and “yay”.
    The way we speak and text is more shorthand for the written word.

    I’ve never heard anyone say, “I had fastened with a string to my head while I was rowing, and had struck on all the time I was swimming, fell off after I came to land; the string, as I conjecture, breaking by some accident which I never observed, but thought my hat had been lost at sea,” but it is written in Gulliver’s Travels.

    Some people want us to speak like this, but it’s irritatingly long to tell someone, “I lost my hat while I was rowing, and thought it was lost at sea.” However, the entire book explains things in extreme detail; the titles are in the form of sentences.

    If you want everyone to speak the way Jonathan Swift writes, you better (or “should”, to be more correct) lead by example and teach it to your children. However, you should expect to have issues when you say things like “I conjecture” instead of “I guess”.

    Reply
  33. oldschool -  January 16, 2014 - 8:58 am

    +1 on oldcodger. You hit the nail on the head! This is a prime example of a language devolving. To create a word to fill a viod is acceptable, but to replace a word with a void is pure laziness.

    Regarding what to call this phenomenon, I think “BECAUSE INFERRED” is more accurate than “because x” or “because noun”. The missing phrase in this usage is inferred. though personally, I think “BECAUSE LAZY” is the most apropos.

    Reply
  34. 2SQ -  January 16, 2014 - 8:41 am

    @An Awesome Minecrafter: Are you serious? “..what’s Radiohead”? .. Uh, what’s Google?

    Reply
  35. 2SQ -  January 16, 2014 - 7:50 am

    @Suzieque: Does that really have to do with “needs”?? It seems it has to do with changing “-ing” to “-ed” in a very sorta hillbilly slang thang.

    Reply
  36. 2SQ -  January 16, 2014 - 7:13 am

    Hey, Jane Solomon: Speaking of linguistics: Why “…all the men in their family can travel back in time to a moment they’VE already lived.”, rather than “…a moment they already lived”?

    Reply
  37. 2SQ -  January 16, 2014 - 6:49 am

    @ Karma: Why “We’VE told a few friends..” rather than “We told…”?
    Why “The same HAS happened with other words..” rather than “The same happened…”?
    My biggest grammar peeve at the moment: Erroneously complicating and confusing English verb tense with the very prevalent misuse of the “have/ had [+verb]” tense where it should be the simple past, or present, tense. The main rule (tho there are other usages): If you’re talking about a SPECIFIC occurrence or time/ time period, use the simple past tense. The “have/ had +verb” tense implies an UNSPECIFIED event in the past. Example: “I have told them about it” is supposed to mean at some unspecified time. “I told them about it” means a specific time, even if you don’t say the time, like “..yesterday”, or “..an hour ago”. You wouldn’t say “I have told them about it yesterday”. That would imply that yesterday is not a specific day, but could happen more than once (like in “Groundhog Day”!). If you say “I was in that store on Monday” you mean a specific Monday, such as the most recent Monday. If you say “I have been in that store on Monday” you’re saying on some Monday, but not which one. Check how often these tenses are mixed up even by professional speakers, announcers, interviewers: How often do you hear “You’ve written this book…”, rather than “You wrote this book…”. Like the book was written at a nonspecific time that could occur more than once? Or that it was written in the past, but now it no longer is? The writing of a book is a specific event, that once done remains done forever! So it should be “you wrote this book”, or “I wrote this book”, not “I have written this book”!

    Reply
  38. Ramanathan K -  January 16, 2014 - 3:04 am

    Sentences do not begin with because because because is a conjunction!

    Reply
  39. An Awesome Minecrafter -  January 16, 2014 - 1:29 am

    @Rickedy Rick:
    Okay, okay, I was a moron and basically called you an idiot. I’m sorry *genuflecting*. I shouldn’t have been so quick to attack you. You’re probably right, anyway. Quite likely, all intelligent use of “because x” will either fade into the background or be swept away altogether by the flood of ignorant uses of it by mindless people trying to conform to the latest trend in aberrations from grammar, regardless of how ridiculous they are. We shouldn’t incorporate this as “grammatical canon” at all; we should simply leave it as nonstandard usage for anyone wishing to state what they have to say in as few words as possible.

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  40. Brewster -  January 15, 2014 - 12:19 pm

    The only thing dumber than this is replacing “said” with “was like”.
    Example: He was like, “Where are you going?”, and I was like “The library.”
    My skin crawls when this crap catches on.
    Next thing you know, people will start calling girls “guys”.
    Oh yeah…. that’s right.

    Reply
  41. Philpreciosity -  January 15, 2014 - 12:11 pm

    ….have long said…”because fill-it-in”

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  42. Lanelle -  January 15, 2014 - 12:04 pm

    Thank you, technology. The ball can only go so high in the air before it has to come down again. Here we are, on the decline.

    Reply
  43. Anonymous -  January 15, 2014 - 10:55 am

    REALLY?!! Ugh so stupid. The word “because” is not supposed to be used like that. Seriously people. grrrrrrr

    Reply
  44. Nicaraguita -  January 15, 2014 - 10:08 am

    Because Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  45. oldcodger -  January 15, 2014 - 4:25 am

    A previous poster claimed that this was evidence of the language evolving. I’d say instead that it’s evidence that the language is devolving. From something intricate, descriptive and beautiful we now have something simple, bland and dull. It may take less time to convey the meaning but if we’re not on a battlefield, for example, why do we need to be so succint? Twitting and texting are obvious situations where brevity is a good thing but in normal speech or written articles etc. it’s a crying shame.

    It’s also not a different use of the word. As many others have pointed out, it’s being used the same way but people are just leaving out the other words that should be in the sentence. E.g. “…because science (has proved it to be true).”

    The English language is a beautiful monster. Some are able tame it and therefore benefit from it’s beauty. Many others can’t tame it and so seek to diminish it until it becomes so weak that they can then use (and abuse) it. (I just made that up! Yes, I know it’s corny :P )

    Reply
  46. An Awesome Minecrafter -  January 15, 2014 - 3:25 am

    I think “A’Lexa” pretty much summed it up.

    Reply
  47. Incognitio -  January 14, 2014 - 2:51 pm

    TO DM
    welcome to the ridiculousness of english

    Reply
  48. Rickedy Rick -  January 14, 2014 - 8:16 am

    @Minecraft
    Try subscribing to dictionary.com’s word of the day, and you might add words like “surreptitiously” to your own lexicon. Because nothing shows how unintelligent someone is, as when they correctly employ “$10″ words in sentences.

    I must have hit pretty close to the mark to get you lashing out like that at a stranger on the internet. Maybe you are actually one of those trend-obsessed bandwagon-jumping hipsters that thinks their self-indulgent worldview applies to all of humanity! That would explain the logic of instantly inducting the “meme of the moment” into the Oxford Dictionary.

    What a beautiful world that would be. All you’d need to aspire to greatness would be an ironic mustache and indignant disavowal of Radiohead! Then you could go on forums to defend your stupidity and unknowingly tell an Engineer who is quite confident with size of his IQ how dumb they are and how they are “trying to appear intelligent” just because they doesn’t think “doge” jokes should be a constitutional amendment.

    Maybe you should stick to soliciting Minecraft friends and leave the mental heavy-lifting to more capable candidates.

    Reply
  49. An Awesome Minecrafter -  January 14, 2014 - 6:34 am

    I agree with most of you. The English language will continue to evolve, and that’s a good thing, but we just have to be careful that our brains don’t turn to mush through staring at moronic words on a screen.* Sometimes, using “because x” makes sense, doesn’t sound awkward, and is acceptable. Other times, it’s downright dumb and makes you sound as if you are devolving into a Neanderthal. Use this intelligently, and it will work. Because language! ;)

    *If anyone has beat the End on Minecraft and watched the dialogue afterward, you might think when you see this: “And sometimes he dreamed of words on a screen.” If you haven’t beat the End on Minecraft, this footnote probably won’t make sense to you.

    My name used to be “An Awesome Minecrafter With Awesome Minecrafting Friends” but that was too long.

    :D

    Reply
  50. Kevin Wei -  January 14, 2014 - 4:35 am

    It enlights students as much as teachers who read it. But it’s gonna be a big fight, – no, it’s always been a big fight in any old schools – over the adoption of the new use and coinages.

    Reply
  51. John P -  January 13, 2014 - 1:31 pm

    All hail to Bill!

    I find your attitude very refreshing and positive.
    Your message actually made me laugh and lifted my spirits :)

    Life is just too short and complicated as it is to nitpick and dwell on minor changes occurring in our language, thinking they’re the devil and our demise in disguise. I mean c’m'on people!

    Trying to find new ways to have fun with our everyday communication tool is important to remain sane and not sink into monotony and, most importantly, it’s human!

    Because logos.
    Cheers!

    Reply
  52. swagger longbottom -  January 13, 2014 - 1:20 pm

    pancakes

    Reply
  53. DM -  January 13, 2014 - 8:55 am

    I agree, stupid. I look at Word of the Day because it’s interesting. Part of what makes it interesting is precise, in-depth explanations. This expression is just laziness. To make this your pick for word of the year is really bad, silly, worse than useless. It just aggrandizes a crackpot fad of the English language, brought about, I think, by the abbreviated typing method used in texting.

    Reply
  54. WRETCH | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  January 13, 2014 - 8:03 am

    [...] whether dealing in corporate propaganda as well — The simplistic marketed solution — Because another toy for the wealthy  — With indefinite ‘Infinitesimal’ effect. — [...]

    Reply
  55. Suzieque -  January 13, 2014 - 6:15 am

    I think you’re missing the origin entirely. I suspect that this is an extension of the kind of consturction that’s been setting my teeth on edge with “needs” for years.
    Examples:
    That field needs plowed.
    The dog needs walked.
    I’ve been seeing this since at least 2008, and it’s been spreading since then. I guess it just hasn’t made Hollywood yet.

    Reply
  56. A'Lexa -  January 13, 2014 - 5:29 am

    I think the “new” usage described in the article is different than the parental standby “Because I said so” and from regular usage such as “because no one knows…” I think the authors are getting at a truncated, shorthanded style of speaking and writing such as “because: parent” or “because: private.”

    I have mixed emotions about this. On one hand, I agree with Rickedy Rick and Wolf. I don’t like it used as a moronic, lazy substitute for proper grammar as in Wolf’s “want” example. This usage is very much in keeping with Facebook and txting style. (I find myself writing “prolly” instead of “probably” in work emails and I’m slightly appalled at myself.)

    On the other hand, language does change and I think it can be used in a pithy and somewhat witty way when summarizing a point, as the article alluded to with the SNL “dummy” example.

    Bottom line, I think we’ll all get used to it and employ it one way or another over time because even grammar evolves. Or should I say… because: change.

    Reply
  57. Dibs -  January 13, 2014 - 2:48 am

    I’m confident that “because” has been used in a similar manner for 20+ years in Australia, ’cause we like to shorten things, ’cause lazy.

    Reply
  58. Joe -  January 12, 2014 - 5:11 pm

    Here is a not so recent usage in “Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples” copyright 1955, arranged by Henry Steele Commager, ISBN 0-517-06019-1, page 30:

    “In earlier ages such horrors remain unknown because unrecorded.”

    Reply
  59. Jon -  January 12, 2014 - 5:09 pm

    Why is it called “because x” and not called what the youth and social media should really call it? The real use of this word is something I am sure I have used, as well as others, “just because” stating that it just is this in a short and simple way of saying it. It has more to do with it just being a logical sense than making any sense. “Just because” is just an excuse for not knowing how to explain it with a well thought out idea but telling the viewer that there is an explanation. “Just because” or “because x” is a childish way of explaining something.

    Reply
  60. Because Linguistics | My Blog -  January 12, 2014 - 4:28 pm

    [...] forego the traditional use of the prepositional modifier of following because.  As the blog post here discusses, people are using the word because in a new (within the past 5 years), terse style that [...]

    Reply
  61. CONTRARIOUS | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  January 12, 2014 - 2:07 pm

    [...] — To remain without any kinda – sorta inconsolable guilt. — Because — Still others crank it up to the max with the oh so Heartfelt Spinning. –  What about [...]

    Reply
  62. UKA EJIOFOR NJOKU -  January 12, 2014 - 6:41 am

    Soon to be abused/misapplied, I bet you.

    Reply
  63. ... -  January 12, 2014 - 4:42 am

    B E C A U S E

    Reply
  64. Lauren~♥ -  January 11, 2014 - 10:37 pm

    Personally, I like “Because X.” I think uses like “Because Want” or “Because Tired” are pushing it though, even though they are technically not misusing the phrase. “Because X” was originally more of a sarcastic phrase.
    The idea is that whatever would be there instead of X, is an overlong long explanation that is really just cover for the ‘real reason’, which is X.

    Reply
  65. Josh -  January 11, 2014 - 10:35 pm

    For those of you grousing about how incorrect or “stupid” this is, this blog isn’t for you. This blog is for people who are interested in how English has evolved and how it is continuing to evolve, not for people who feel that linguistic evolution culminated in 1950 and that any deviation from the most formal rules and registers of those days is aberrant.

    As for the origins of this fascinating development, I do notice from my own experience that most of the theories proposed in the article are incorrect. “Because reasons” was the first application I encountered, and I don’t remember exactly when, but it was several years ago–2010 at the latest. Google seems to suggest that the usage didn’t achieve critical mass until 2011 or 2012, but doesn’t shed any readily identifiable light on the actual origin.

    If I had to make an educated guess, based on the places where I first saw this kind of usage, there was a specific webcomic or a meme that got the ball rolling.

    Another compelling possibility is that this is a naturally deducible truncation that somebody used at some point and others mimicked. It would be likeliest to occur in a setting where the same point is debated repeatedly and the various participants grow tired of repeating themselves. Implicit in the truncation is something along the lines of “because (…come on, we all know this already…) reasons!,” with “reasons” carrying the contextual message that the reasons are obvious and well known.

    Reply
  66. Lilly the Pink -  January 11, 2014 - 11:52 am

    I absolutely agree with the previously posted comment by “Wolf tamer and tree puncher.” We are intelligent human beings. One of the things that set humans apart from other species is our ability to develop, learn, and create concept ideas with the already abstract idea of language. Why must we officially recognize lazy forms of grammar and word usage to accommodate those who don’t care about the beauty in a structured, complex, and yet simple language.
    The fact the those proposing the adding of these sloth like versions of the English language, to grammar rules and dictionaries, are professional, degree-recipiant linguists makes me sad. If those who have the most power to keep beautiful, ancient works of art protected wish to modernize them in any way possible, then what is the point of learning rules and keeping these beautifully crafted languages alive?
    Contrary to what my opinion may seem to be so far, I am all for the development of Language. But, I believe it should be in an intelligent way, like the addition of words from other languages that previously English had no simple translation. Language is one of the most distinct characteristics of individual cultures, so why would we want to abase the American culture by officializing the demise of our language?

    Reply
  67. Megan -  January 11, 2014 - 7:52 am

    This is why more and more people are calling Americans dumb. We add things like this to our vocabulary because of people deciding to misuse the original meaning. That’s ridiculous. If people make up words and set a trend, does not mean they’re actually words. Stop adding things to our language, it’s already complex enough.

    Reply
  68. Bill -  January 11, 2014 - 7:31 am

    As a 50 year old man who grew up with a grandmother (who was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in the Midwest) insisting that he write and speak properly, I enjoy watching the language evolve. Most of my friends are much younger than I am, and I spend a fair amount of time online, so I tend to see these words coming into use. I don’t think it’s because people are lazy or illiterate that they use these newly-minted words and phrases; it’s because they’re new, and fun, and often a bit funny. My housemate always grins when he says, “Because… science!” or “Because want!” because he knows it’s a bit silly sounding. So my advice to those who dig in their heels and insist that nothing ever change is to make some younger friends and stop acting like old codgers. Because life.

    Reply
  69. ConciseVerbiage -  January 11, 2014 - 6:08 am

    Leo, Lisa, DH, Eric, (and some other people) have it best (partially) summarized…
    I see many examples seem to be using ‘because’ in place of (or instead of), “Why? It is Because (of)…” or “Why? It is Because I (am/have/will be/etc.)…”
    I believe it is (potentially both) laziness or pragmatic efficiency…
    Example; Many of us respond with one word answers to questions posed as such – “Did you *whatever*? With a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, instead of a more complete, “Yes, I *whatever*.” (Which would clear up many confusions when the questions becomes more involved, complicated, or awkwardly posed)…
    Therefore, I think ‘Because Why’ could be one of Because X’s many iterations… Why? Because!
    Yet I will not let whatever ‘Because X’ may be labelled stop me from being more accurately understood with more concise verbiage. ;-) Just Sayin’…

    Reply
  70. Zippi -  January 11, 2014 - 5:21 am

    In a word; no.
    The examples, given, show, to me, lazy sentence construction. “Because want.” Because want what? It makes no sense, to me. what seems to be happening, in part, thanks to journalists, is that clues, in our language are being stripped away and what remains is vague and almost a private language, which only those in the know can understand.

    Reply
  71. An Awesome Minecrafter With Awesome Minecrafting Friends -  January 10, 2014 - 10:53 pm

    If you play Minecraft, please skip a line after your message and put a smiley face underneath. Thanks! You might be surprised how large the Minecrafting community is, even on this blog.

    :D

    Reply
  72. An Awesome Minecrafter With Awesome Minecrafting Friends -  January 10, 2014 - 10:51 pm

    Hmmm…I think this might work as long as it’s used intelligently. “Because want” sounds like something a two-year-old might say. “Because reasons” is sensible and can be used. We just have to be careful not to turn into numbskulls. As “Leo” said, “Because grammar!”

    @Rickedy Rick:
    This has to do with language, it’s not just on the Internet, and of course these linguists have to be “relevant,” or no one would care and there would be no point in the articles. They are not “surreptitiously trying to add it as officially recognized grammatical canon” – this article itself proves that it is not “surreptitious.” Why are you using such $10 words, anyway? Are you hoping that people will not understand them, thus believing that you are very intelligent and agreeing with you, without knowing what you are talking about? And as long as we’re on the topic of “people on the internets talking like morons,” it should be “IT doesn’t” and either “DESPERATE to be” or “desperately TRYING to be.” And, uh, what’s Radiohead?

    Reply
  73. Saphira -  January 10, 2014 - 3:17 pm

    Okay, this has got to be the DUMBEST article ever. -_-

    Reply
  74. AnnJ -  January 10, 2014 - 1:54 pm

    I also immediately thought of parents answering kids. Actually, I agree with everything that every poster so far has said about this!

    But really, isn’t this just an example of leaving out a few words in a sentence? The meaning of the word hasn’t changed.

    Reply
  75. sista a -  January 10, 2014 - 1:07 pm

    Seems to me like “because” + ellipsis. Because proper grammar left out.

    Reply
  76. Ptron-AV -  January 10, 2014 - 12:39 pm

    This illustrates the simplification of English from its roots in the more-complex Old English to the simpler Middle English to the streamlined Modern English, e.g., the loss of grammatical gender, the paring down of cases and the simplification of tenses. Sometimes these developments annoy me, but, then again, it’s kind of fun to see the the natural evolution of language happen right before your eyes.

    Reply
  77. Leo -  January 10, 2014 - 10:15 am

    The ‘because x’ expression may sound “tersely worded” to some linguists. To laymen like me, surely it may sound funny in a punchline or in the humorous tone of some examples like “because reasons” or “because yay!”
    Now, things like “because want” look -and sound- really awkward to me…
    Because grammar!
    :-)

    Reply
  78. Rickedy Rick -  January 10, 2014 - 7:05 am

    Just “because” people on the internets all talk like morons, doesn’t give the self-appointed linguistic moderators the go-ahead to surreptitiously add it as officially recognized grammatical canon.

    I would suspect these faux-linguists are rather pop-culture slaves desperately to be hip and relevant.

    Is this our future? Will lame hipsters eventually sell out all longstanding, self-respecting intellectual and societal institutions in order to get LOLs and subreddits?

    Why can’t they just go back to pretending that they’re the first person to discover Radiohead, and leave the English language alone?!?

    Reply
  79. Lisa Doak -  January 10, 2014 - 6:58 am

    The origin of because x is in parenting! Why? “Because I said so!”

    Reply
  80. DH -  January 10, 2014 - 5:54 am

    It’s nice to explore the usage of words but why is it that big of a deal? Ya, know, because bad grammar.

    Reply
  81. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  January 10, 2014 - 5:48 am

    I personally feel that this is stupid. If you are on this site at all, you have at least part of a brain, so use it if it is functional. Come on, you know you’re capable of speaking in complete sentences. What makes “I’m buying this jacket because want” so much better than “I’m buying this jacket because I want it”? Are you really so tired that you have to say “Must sleep now because tired”? Really. We’re not imbeciles, so why act like we are? For once, reading a Dictionary.com blog article might just be a waste of time I could be playing Minecraft.

    Reply
  82. John Morrison -  January 10, 2014 - 5:34 am

    The first thing that comes to mind as usage is when kids ask questions to their parents of “why can’t I do this or that”?, the answer is simply “because”, or “because I said so”, or “just because”. Am I understanding this new usage correctly?

    Reply
  83. Eric -  January 10, 2014 - 1:47 am

    what appears most amazing in this blog is that the “experts” are unfamiliar with the long-standing use of the word because by parents. A child can ask their parents ” why?” after they have been told about something they must do.or a situation they must accept. The response “because” has been used alone and sometimes followed by “I told you so” for many, many years.

    Additionally, 40 plus years ago there was a joke about a philosophy professor who gave an exam to the class. On that exam was a single question with a single word “why? ” The punch line of the story describes the student who received an A+ on the exam for simply providing the answer “Because.”

    Reply
  84. Karma Chameleon -  January 10, 2014 - 1:25 am

    The use of words changes every day. My friend and I use a word (like a secret code at the moment “because” no one else knows) (see what I did there? :D), to describe unpleasant people. We’ve told a few other friends who like the word and we can see it catching on. The same has happened with other words we have used, as well as the wider world in general. Have fun :)

    Reply
  85. GT -  January 9, 2014 - 6:34 pm

    Because, because, because… Because of the wonderful things he does!

    Reply

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