Posted: 02 Jan 2014 08:51 PM PST
The headline over a recent article (Nov. 19, 2013) by Megan Garber in The Atlantic announces,
The subhead expresses implied approval: Linguists are recognizing the delightful evolution of the word “because.”
Linguists may be recognizing the jocular elliptical use of because as a “delightful evolution,” but I have my suspicions that grammarians are less than enthusiastic.
The word because is used to introduce reasons. As a subordinating conjunction, its job is to join a subordinate adverbial clause to a main clause:
The phrase “because of” introduces a noun phrase or a gerund:
A previously existing elliptical use of because is often heard in conversation, as in this example from the OED entry:
Linguists have dubbed the “new” use of because the “because noun” or the because+noun.” The most popular speculation about its origin is that it began as a recurring joke on Saturday Night Live.
Neal Whitman gives this example from SNL in an article called ‘Because as a Preposition”:
SNL fans adopted the joke with such variations as “If life gives you lemons, keep them, because, hey, free lemons.”
Whitman explains the evolution from the “hey” construction to the “because noun” construction:
He points out that in the 2000s, the “because-hey” construction became popular in Internet memes. Eventually the hey dropped out, leaving only the because.
I think that long before the internet intruded into our lives, the “preposition+noun” construction could be overheard in millions of homes:
Whatever its origin, the “because+noun” is in wide use in the speech of young speakers. It certainly suits the spirit of the times, with its laconic, sarcastic, and irreverent tone. And, in these grammar-challenged times, it’s extremely useful, relieving one of the labor of completing a thought.
The because+noun may become a feature of the language, but for the present, it is a nonstandard elliptical construction that doesn’t belong in formal writing.