Any linguists care to comment whether there's a term for this kind of meaning compression? "Idiom" doesn't quite seem to cover it.
I do wonder, though, how long this secondary meaning will last. Right now the dismissive connotation comes about because the phrase stands out, because it breaks the rules in order to be overly brief. If the phrase gets used more, and especially as a new generation never grows up not hearing it, it will not stand out anymore as an unconventional. It could just become grammatical. Without that element, it could easily lose its dismissive connotation.
This is kind of exciting to watch, in a nerdy sort of way. Language evolution doesn't really happen much in literate societies like ours, so it's neat that we have an example unfolding before our eyes.
"I added bacon to my ice cream because bacon" [is the most awesome thing ever] (and if you don't already know that or don't agree, I don't want to try defending it).
"The project failed because politics" [generally causes everything to fail] (and if I start talking about that I'll start ranting and no one wants that).
"Root beer in a square glass is beer because math" [uses "square" and "root" as opposites] (but if I said that explicitly it would harm the humor of the joke).
Contrast "I added bacon to my ice cream because of bacon", which would suggest that everything you need to know is there and it is the nature of bacon to be added to ice cream.
Most popular memes have cross-cultural appeal, and we each add to them.
This is really just a slightly more grown up version of lolcat. Because cats.
I believe that we write more than we ever did. But what we write is not literature but a written form of casual conversation (blog comments, forum posts, IM, IRC, email...). It seems to me that it is likely, on the contrary, to favour a faster evolution of the language; especially for international English.
Change in our language is slowed because we have high exposure to how the language was used decades, or generations, in the past. This exposure 'anchors' our language to a much greater extent than societies that do not have a high rate of written or audio records.
We acquire language in the form that it is used around us. In the absence of records, this means that the last generation's "slang" becomes our "normal speech," and whatever was spoken sixty years back is something we've never heard. This makes for a high rate of linguistic turnover, and four generations of separation will usually result in mutual incomprehensibility.
In modern times, I'm regularly being influenced by English that's 50 years old via Star Trek, Star Wars, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Silver Surfer comic books. Because I still have exposure to generations-old versions of English, my speech will continue to resemble them.
We see minor evolutions in language these days - an extra word or changed usage to keep the dictionary-writers employed - but is there anything comparable to the differences you'd see across Britain in the 1600s?
It's similar to "Suddenly, bananas!" or "I accidentally the whole thing." I wish I could remember all the strange grammar I heard at MIT. Communities like the hacker community and 4chan are fertile ground for new grammatical constructions because people pick up and repeat the ones they hear while trying to preserve their meaning and connotations.
I still occasionally burst out laughing when I hear a funny turn of phrase at Meteor (which has a lot of MIT people).
Funny language is funny.
That was the point if the question, though. "If God does not exist, then how come physics?" And the answer is, "You can just leave off the 'God' part and just ask 'how come physics?'"
I wonder why "how come [noun]" is recognizable as sort of the same thing.
It took me a few seconds to get my head around that one.
Well, no. It actually alludes to the fact that politics was the hand-wavy excuse used to describe why the talks failed.
It goes back to "X happened because aliens." As in, we can't explain why it happened, therefore we'll just say it was aliens that did it.
The "because ___" construct has the nice effect of making the listener associate multiple connotations of the ___ word. So in the case of politics, it means "handwavy politics without explanation" and "because this is always the excuse" and "politics fucks everything up" and all the other things you associate with the term. Similary because aliens invokes what you said, since we know that aliens are just a lazy excuse commonly used, and also they are basically magical beings (in common vernacular) so anything can be attributed to them (like fairies).
The way I read the construct, which the article touches on, is as shorthand to refer to universal properties of a subject that both the writer and the reader understand. "Because politics" = "because politics usually results in stupid outcomes", "because bacon" = "because bacon is delicious and should be in everything", "because racecar" = "because racecars throw out the rules of what you would expect in a regular car", etc. Used this way it becomes self-referrential as an obvious explanation - "of course talks failed, politics was involved". "Of course I put bacon, bacon is delicious". "Of course there's no interior, it's a race car".
Of course, different people may read different implied properties based on their own views, that may not be the same as what the writer had in mind...
The grammatical failure is the kind that would happen in speech, when the speaker suddenly realizes he's bit off more than he can chew, and truncates his explanation with a pause, a word, a shrug, and a rueful smile. "because, you know... politics."
Some of this might be caused by increased use of smartphones for posting on the Facebook, tweeting, and texting. I'm not sure laziness is the right word, but conservation of characters is certainly a goal.
As far as laziness, I'll disagree with you. Hardly ever is a "because X" clause well thought out or witty. I think it's safe to assume there is some serious mental laziness happening when you see a "prepositional because" being used.
"Laziness" in language change generally follows the principle of least effort - both in syntax changes as well as phonetic and phonological changes. We're almost certainly beginning to see more sweeping effects of shortened communication media on English, beyond the near-ubiquitous acronyms now in use.
To clarify my thoughts, I think it's one thing to use a prepositional because when referring to oneself. However, it's another thing to criticize someone else with a five syllable simplification. It's impossible to do justice to someone else's thoughts and feelings that way. That lack of understanding and empathy is what I find to be lazy.
Now, a full-length column in the New York Times or a bit on Fox News certainly is not necessarily a fair and coherent argument. But, leaving room for exceptions, pithy "because X" clauses are not fair to third-party subjects.
I actually find it more effort to type full English sentences with a keyboard and mouse; my Android smartphone has voice dictation and swipe gesture typing, and I find that iOS' autocorrect appears to trigger most when you type something that isn't a "standard" sentence.
Words aren't being removed, but the word because is being added to a very old speech pattern.
"The talks failed because politics" is an expansion of "The talks failed: politics", with a pause between failed and politics, and politics spoken like a new one-word sentence, usually at a slightly different pitch level than The talks failed. It's meaning and intonation pattern is quite different to "The talks failed because of politics".
When saying "The talks failed because politics" out loud, we still put a pause before politics, and use the same intonation pattern as "The talks failed: politics". The word because replaces the terser colon in the written form.
"Because politics" is like saying "because politics are just crazy like that."
It's a flippant way of saying something is simply absurd. Or an issue is pretty much binary.
"It conveys focus... It conveys brevity... But it also conveys a certain universality."
People use it when they're busy, drunk, or absent-minded to be self-deprecative. As in:
"Maxed out my credit card because too much beer!"
But people also use it to disparage someone else:
"Uptown a*&%$# voted against prop B because racism."
The article briefly hints at this when it says, "So we get comments like these, with people using 'because' not just to explain, but also to criticize, and sensationalize, and ironize...".
In fact, I'm having a hard time coming up with an example of a "because X" clause that has complimentary implications.
However, it's possible that the implications of this preposition has softened recently and I'm out of the loop. Or maybe I'm just overthinking it.
EDIT: Maybe it's just me but "because bacon" and "because awesome" do not imply that the subject of the sentence is a person with qualities worth aspiring to. Not that bacon isn't awesome.
"Maxed out my credit card because too much beer!"
I added bacon to my milkshake because delicious.
I don't normally like superhero movies, but I went to see the Avengers, because Joss Whedon.
* If the cutter asked without giving a reason, they succeeded 60% of the time.
* If the cutter gave a legitimate reason like "I'm late for class", they succeeded 90% of the time.
* If the cutter gave a lame excuse like "I need to make copies", they still succeeded 90% of the time!
So "because reasons" is not necessarily any worse an excuse than any other.
"I have breakfast for all three meals because bacon."
"Now put x with y, because awesome!"
because of X and for all of the usual connotations and implications of X, which the (reader|hearer) surely understands, A happened.
All of the examples are just social media wanking, as far as I can tell, so probably not indicative of any actual shift in how people are using English to tell a story. "Skipping lunch because sleep." OK. Who the fuck cares?
Ultimately, the human brain can error-correct over gross misuse of language; plenty of people speak without using articles, mess up "his" and "her" and "he" or "she", spell the world "you" as "u", choose the wrong word when their are homonyms, or wr173 411 7h31r s3n73n(3s l1|<3 7h15. That doesn't mean it's a good idea to invoke the error correction machinery when the message isn't actually corrupted; it would be pretty fatiguing to read Neal Stephenson in l337 speak. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Because humans.
They didn't start out as formal constructions, just pick up any lament about the decline of language from, say, the 19th century.
As a non-native English speaker, I had never even seen or heard the "correct" usage until I saw people complaining about the horrors of the decline of language caused by people using it synonymous with "raises the question". The only reason I've seen the "correct" usage now is because people complaining about the change occasionally points it out.
The first time I heard it I instantly knew what it was and then I thought. "That's a clever language hack".
Edit: Oldest usage, as found by google:
http://www.dkvine.com/games/dkl3/ (2001), line 807 in the source; this is probably not the first usage in all of english.
I'm not sure, about that.
I can hardly imagine a situation where "because SCIENCE" and "because MATH" are ironic at all, except (and not implying you) to internet hipsters that never understood science or math.
Why did it rain on my wedding day? Because IRONY!
Why a black fly in my chardonnay? Because IRONY!
Why 10,000 straws when I needed a spork? Because IRONY!
Sorry Alanis, still not ironic.
I put bacon in my salad. [why?] Because bacon.
That explains absolutely nothing, the implication being that if you're asking why, you're a moron and nothing more can be explained to you because bacon is so overwhelmingly and obviously self-justifying. Other interpretations abound as well.
(Someone elsewhere in the thread said the "because" construction was unusual because prepositions evolve more slowly than words of other parts of speech in English; this is true, but conjunctions typically move slowest of all. Such times we live in...)
The privacy issues are obvious, but imagine being able to trace the spread of new language construction as it propagates through a population.
"After I die, wherever my spirit goes, I'm going to try to get back and visit my skeleton at least once a year, because, 'Hey, old buddy, how's it going?'."
I still laugh about it, and the main reason it was funny to me was the odd (but humorously apropos) use of the word "because."
That's how it feels to me, too. It works because people are in on the deliberate "misuse" of language. Sort of like when people say (or said) the single-word sentence "Sadness."
Should it become common parlance then that cool "in-joke" feel goes away, and while it would still have some meaning it wouldn't be the same meaning it has right now.
It might simply become another way to say "because of."
Or, articles like this one might lead people to make more of it than it was every intended, thereby becoming correct by virtue of asserting a claim that people then follow as if it already true.
Potatoes are a common talk topic on the net because, like, Latvian jokes.
> It can be followed either by a finite clause (I'm reading this because [I saw it on the web]) or by a prepositional phrase (I'm reading this because [of the web]).
Seems to me that you are correct, this 'new usage' is merely the latter usage without 'of'.
However, there are many languages in the world, especially in east Asia, which take this even further and it's perfectly fine for you to omit large parts of discourse. And it's not only because they are implied, but because the lack of specification means something.
IANAL but I think here we are witnessing a similar a similar development. Probably these things happen often in any language, but education tends to punish "bad language" usage whenever it doesn't fit some established grammatical rules. Split infinitives are another example of that.
So "Why do you look so distraught?" "Because PHP" "I am so sorry."
"Because-noun," it would appear, can be construed multiple ways, and a lot of the meaning is contextual.
It's too fickle, too context dependent.
These are two different genres. It's interesting to ask when something becomes so widely accepted that it is considered fine to use in "proper" english writing. If "because X" is, then so is LOL.
Incorporate ALL THE THINGS!
We need new nouns and new verbs all the time, because what occupies and what occurs in our environment changes so fast. Interestingly, despite that rapid change, the set of prepositions, the set of conceptual relationships we've chosen to concisely express, stays pretty steady.
It's fascinating to read about a new preposition entering into common usage, because it makes me wonder what new pressures we're collectively facing in describing conceptual relationships. Certainly it could just be Twitter's character limits causing people to drop the "of" in "because of", but maybe other forces caused this construction to have utility now.
My bet would be on an increased expectation that our conversational partners share our context, and our models for understanding why things happen the way they do, because internet.
> Skipping lunch today because sleep.
What is that supposed to mean? You need to take a nap during lunch; you got too much sleep the night before and are groggy, etc.
Why not add a few more words to make the sentence understandable (in this case non-ambiguous).
TL;DR: Don't mistake dumb for compression.
I want to say exactly what I mean to say, neither more nor less.
Those that aren't in on the joke go "because huh?", which is funny. Because lol internet.
It's a poor use of the new word, as you've demonstrated. It doesn't mean the new word is therefore universally unclear.
But of course we're going to get into a pedantic and possibly violent argument over such a small and insignificant part of both our lives, because Internet.
A: "Why do some people have such a fetich for eating tiger penis"
B: "Because china"
Am I alone in this?
The other meaning is "I don't need to explain why, because it should be obvious". Example: Bacon milkshake, because bacon.
On the other hand, "because <noun>" is extremely inexact:
> English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet
What about the Internet caused English to gain a new preposition? Unless you already understand, "because <noun>" adds little, if any, explanation. I can see its use as a handy short-hand when your audience does already understand though.
Bacon milkshake because bacon.
Bacon milkshake because of bacon.
The second one doesn't carry the flippant implication of the unquestionable awesomeness of bacon. You don't get to argue the point with the first one. The second one might be up to debate. There's far more to communication that just facts. There's emotional content that gets captured as well.
Anyway, that's the way it reads in the Collected Poems I bought long ago. To be sure, if you Google for "Pardon Old Fathers", the versions you find will say "Because of the spectacle". Is that on account of the Internet's (because the Internet's) jealousy?
Not many comments here, because short attention spans!
"Not many people read the whole thing because HN."
Now, you could add the "of" and just leave it at that, and take it literally. But the implication is so much more than just saying "because of HN."
"People are so fat here because 'merica."
As I said in another comment, to me it implies the subject is dumb or hasty or something. As in a little bit of caveman speak maybe ("He hit own head because stupid").
> "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'"
Because brevity and wit.
I wouldn't worry too much - this is just a fad.
People get bored and do weird things.
It cites a single blog post by one linguist and twitter and image macros.
That hardly constitutes linguists. It hardly constitutes linguist. This feature was longer than the original post.
(I find the evolution of languages quite interesting, especially when technology seems to be involved.)
Take the current top comment example. "because politics" actually implies a sentence something like "The talks failed because of politics, which is the kind of thing that always happens when politics are involved."
It's a common rule-check for grammar to substitute these complete sentences in order to understand the short-hand rule applications.
i'm partly torn because it seems fruitless in this particular case. losing the of is surely an optimisation, but i struggle to see the difference in intent. despite the examples by others in comments and such they all work equally well by using the 'correct' grammar including 'of'.
if this does take off i'm sure it will be recommended against heavily in style guides. i recently opened up a copy of that 'famous' ap style book - the defacto style guide for the us press - and was shocked to see how much of the content about grammar and punctuation is stuff that my generation of brits were taught as 'the rules' from quite an early age. again, i'm not really sure if its good or bad...
on the one hand its not hard to just learn the rules and use them... on the other its more convenient to be lazy. the advantage of the latter is ease of use, but the advantage of the former is consistency and clarity. since we write and speak for other people i am inclined to lean towards the former... but when mistakes are common enough that argument is void and i'm inclined to think the other way.
its certainly an interesting area to say the least... i just hope it never gets so far that 'there' is accepted as an alternate spelling for 'their' or 'they're'. :)
In the sentence above, "because" is followed by an adjective phrase. Prepositions are never followed by adjective phrases, so "prepositional because" is a misnomer for this new construction and does not fully describe its range of uses. I have no suggestions for a better name though...
I've never heard this construction in speech, but maybe I don't hang out with enough nerdy internet types.
> I added bacon to my milkshake because bacon.
It's fascinating how languages converge.
"I forgot to feed my kids because Warcraft."
"My server melted because Slashdot."
As for Hacker News being a time sink in your life, I don't know that there's a phrase short enough to fit.
"I sunk all my time into innernet forums because single."
Apparently, using the word trespass as a intransitive verb is correct (albeit archaic) and was used as such in the New Testament, as in forgive those who trespass against us.