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Sunday, January 5th 2014

10:15 AM

Just Because

Once again, my prediction for the Word of the Year proved to be off the mark. Why? Because.

That's right. At their recent meeting in Minneapolis, members of the American Dialect Society chose because as the 2013 Word of the Year. My pick, "Obamacare," finished a distant second. Thankfully, "selfie" and "twerk" were even farther behind. You can read the entire news release here.

I gotta say, this one took me by surprise. Last year, "hashtag" (#) took 2012 WOTY honors due to the widespread emergence of Twitter. The selection of "because" also seems to be driven by social media and online usage.

The ADS chose "because" because the word is being used in new ways - ways that I was not aware of until November, when I read this article. It points out that usage of the word "because" is evolving from a subordinating conjunction into a preposition.

In traditional usage, "because" is followed by a clause. Example: I'm late because I spent too much time watching videos on YouTube. It can also be followed by a prepositional phrase: I'm late because of YouTube.

Now, "because" is starting the prepositional phrase. Example: I'm late because YouTube. I'm not going because tired. I'm writing this post because Word of the Year.

How did this new usage come about? The aforementioned article lists a few ideas, including Internet memes. It also allows for brevity, an economy of words favored by people who text, tweet, post on Facebook or blog.

As far as I can see, the new construction has not yet found its way into more mainstream websites and publications. Maybe I just don't read enough, but I haven't seen it used in any newspaper articles or articles posted on, say, time.com. I also haven't heard people actually talk this way.

But, all that could happen soon enough because trend.
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