Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet (theatlantic.com)
300 points by sinak on Nov 19, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 149 comments



What's fascinating to me is that, unlike so many other language "changes", this isn't caused by laziness or carelessness. This seems to be a rare case where removing words adds information, rather than removing it: "The talks failed because of politics" means roughly what it says, while "The talks failed because politics" means roughly "The talks failed because of politics, which is the kind of thing that always happens when politics are involved".

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 think "idiom" is an apt description. It's a compact phrase that conveys at least two layers of meaning. Most importantly, one of those meanings cannot simply be parsed from the direct syntax & vocabulary that make up the phrase, but relies on the cultural familiarity with the phrase and its common usage.

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'm not sure that understanding this is that predicated on cultural familiarity. I'd argue the majority of its meaning comes from the fact that it "breaks the rules in order to be overly brief." The syntax being intentionally wrong, bad, and clumsy coincides with the fact that it's often used to describe absurd things and situations. Clumsy syntax = slightly belligerent rhetoric? I could be wrong, my main idea of a idiom is a proverb or figurative parallel illustrating a concept.


I don't think it's belligerent or simply compressed. AFAICT, it warns the listener that a lot is being left out. It is, in fact, the independent phrase version, using a single noun as the independent phrase. This tells the listener to deduce the rest of the phrase. The verb and object are generally omitted for reasons other than brevity.

"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.


Off-topic, but just wanted to add that the four comments above exemplify why I still find hope in HN discussions. Each one adds some new insight, refining what was said previously and does it in a constructive way.


There's also ambiguity. I didn't think math was funny just because of the pun, but also because of the way people use math to justify homeopathy. It's mathematical, so it must be true. From a similar cultural perspective, I can see something totally different but also valid.

Most popular memes have cross-cultural appeal, and we each add to them.


Yes, a lack of words are omitted to mock a lack of thought. That's all. Anyone who thinks otherwise just missed the boat.


substitute "internet" for "cultural" in cultural familiarity and I think you'll understand the point better.

This is really just a slightly more grown up version of lolcat. Because cats.


> 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 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.


You probably won't see this reply, but what I meant was...

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.


It depends on the parts of language you're referring to. Pre-1600 in the days before widespread mechanized transport, mass media and printing Britain ended up with a lot of regional dialects and ways of spelling the same words [1] as mutations had to conquer a much smaller population to get a secure foothold.

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?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dialects_of_the_Englis...


I'd call it a grammatical construction. Your brain already knows how to "typecast" a noun to a reason ("Why didn't the bill pass?" "I don't know. Politics."), it's just not usually grammatically "licensed" in this case. If you've been infected by the "because [noun]" meme, however, you have a construction in your vocabulary (we could say in your idiolect) that can be invoked to explain any instances of "because [noun]" you come across, with all the associated connotations you learned along with it.

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.


I just came across a variant in the wild -- a Quora comment -- which puts the noun as the thing to be explained rather than the explanation:

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.


idiolect - now there's a word that sums up the language used in most comments on the internet :)


The closest thing I can think of to the removed word is not "of" but the Spanish "hay" (pronounced like "I"), which has no clear English analogue, but it means roughly "there is" or "the present state of affairs includes". The talks failed because hay politics (there is politics), the sandwich is delicious because hay bacon (it has bacon), you should go to the planetarium because hay space (there is [the profundity of our relationship to the cosmos]), where in the last case we also consider the context of the word "space" (nobody would here say "because cosmos!").


My favorite: Putting Root Beer in a square cup makes it regular beer because math.

It took me a few seconds to get my head around that one.


The author of that tweet could have eliminated "beacuse math" entirely.


and you're admitting that on hn! The capital triggered your brain to think of proper nouns, rather than just a plain old noun.


>>"The talks failed because of politics" means roughly what it says, while "The talks failed because politics" means roughly "The talks failed because of politics, which is the kind of thing that always happens when politics are involved"

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.


Actually you're both right. (and you're therefore both wrong, because contradictions).

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).


Interesting, we seem to be reading it differently. I don't think there's any real basis to say one reading is more valid than the other.

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...


I think it acknowledges a failure in explanation -- you start with, "The talks failed because...", but there is no easy reason why the talks failed. So you just put a word in there. "Politics." It's an aborted attempt at explanation. It implies extensive context and a truly complex or even incomprehensible explanation.

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."


> this isn't caused by laziness or carelessness

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.


Interesting that "mental laziness" is the association you have with this construction. It certainly signals a sort of casual tone, but it's easy to fall into the trap of "different than the way I speak" -> "wrong". Certainly not helped by the fact that young people are the ones who generate and adopt language changes at a vastly higher rate.

"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.


I have nothing against brevity. And I don't think it's lazy because I don't speak that way.

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 think we are in agreement then. I certainly wouldn't use a construction like this in a serious critique. But then there are thousands of other things I wouldn't write or say in a serious context either.


> Some of this might be caused by increased use of smartphones

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.


> This seems to be a rare case where removing words adds information

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.


It could also be interpreted as a short form of: "The talks failed because politics happened". Now we're just dropping the obvious verb at the end, because obvious is obvious.


The added inference I get is "that's just the way it is."

"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.


Yeah, it has an "do you even have to ask?" flavor to it for me.


amazingly, something similar can be observed in Russian language as well. In casual speech, one can explain the reason for something using потому что (because) followed by a noun (e.g. "потому что политика! - "because politics!"), followed by end of sentence. Which I'm not entirely sure is grammatically correct, however it has an effect similar to what you mentioned.


I don't think that's grammatically correct, yeah. The correct version would most likely be "из-за политики", though that's just a bit of a weird thing to say just like that.


Somewhat related to the concept of "deixis" or "indexicality" - phrases whose meaning can vary depending on contextual information. "Because politics" could mean one thing in a dysfunctional country, and entirely another in an extremely well-run one.


Not a linguist, but wouldn't this fall under "pithiness"? I think generic brevity and succinctness would also describe this adequately.


a term for this kind of meaning compression?

Because Katz.


Maybe it's just me, but the "prepositional because" is usually deprecative of the subject. The article details the implications of the prepositional because:

"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 don't think this is a likely construction because it's too precise. It's too close in meaning to "maxed out my credit card because of too much beer." A more likely one would be "maxed out my credit card because beer" or even "maxed out my credit card because priorities," in which the context ironically implicates overspending on beer."


Ah, yes. Probably right on that count. That's probably a better phrasing. The self-deprecation is nonetheless implied.


> In fact, I'm having a hard time coming up with an example of a "because X" clause that has complimentary implications.

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.


"I added bacon to my milkshake because bacon!"


This is close to being complimentary, but it comes across as more of a compliment to Joss Whedon than the subject. At best, it's a neutral expression of fandom. At worst, it's an admission of fanboy (or fangirl) proclivities. Some sort of context is needed to clarify which one.


I like this

Because reasons


I just read about a Harvard psychology study where someone asked if they could cut in front of the queue at a library copy machine:

* 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.



Again, this is declarative, not complementary. Or maybe you agree with me. This extreme brevity is very ambiguous.


X was awesome because uhhh stuff


> In fact, I'm having a hard time coming up with an example of a "because X" clause that has complimentary implications.

"I have breakfast for all three meals because bacon."


> In fact, I'm having a hard time coming up with an example of a "because X" clause that has complimentary implications.

"Now put x with y, because awesome!"


Upvoted this comment because valid.


Did you mean to disprove the OP comment? I ask because irony.


What about something like "I am now a billionaire because bitcoin"


Prepositional because is generally used in the same sense as "shut up, he explained." That is, it's not so much intended as an explanation as a conversation ender.


I read "A because X" and expand it out to :

because of X and for all of the usual connotations and implications of X, which the (reader|hearer) surely understands, A happened.


To me, something about the brevity implies idiocy, hastiness, or half-bakedness. Despite this, some of the examples here are celebratory in tone (because bacon, because beer).


I'm not yet convinced that this is something one can use and not get laughed at for quite yet. It's fine for informal communications because your readers are probably not too literate, but I fear that this might still confuse an older generation used to more formal grammatical constructions.

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.


> [..] an older generation used to more formal grammatical constructions.

They didn't start out as formal constructions, just pick up any lament about the decline of language from, say, the 19th century.


My favourite "decline of language" issue, because it still riles up certain people while it seems clear that the accepted usage will inevitably change, is "begs the question".

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.


Or the third. Before common era too.


Yes. But some 19th century laments are now accepted as formal usage.


I use this construction in conversational english with my coworkers all the time.

The first time I heard it I instantly knew what it was and then I thought. "That's a clever language hack".


My suspicion is that this evolved from the phrase "because f-ck you, that's why", which is pretty old (~5-10 years).

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.


Yes, and instead of claiming it to be "explicitly ironic" as the author does, I had actually thought as I read it, it's mostly "implicitly fuck you."


it's usually used in non-sequitur situations where a rational explanation for an individual or entity in power is lacking. For example. "Q: why does the TSA allow me to 20 miniature scope bottles but not one big scope bottle to get past security? A: Because, f-you, that's why." It seems like in most of these "because, X" constructs, there is an appeal to an agent that has a higher authority or extremely potent, or surprising effect: Eg, "because, MATH" or, "because, yay!", or "because, tiny subatomic particles!" but you probably wouldn't use it for the mundane. "because, that's what I do every day" doesn't feel like the same cotstruct even though it has roughly the same form, unless you put a strong emphasis on it, e.g. "because, THAT'S WHAT I DO EVERY DAY". Which elevates the mundane to something omnipresent. Anyways, I'm not sure what constitutes "explicitly ironic", but in the situations where "because, fuck you" are called for seem pretty explicitly ironic to me.


> in the situations where "because, fuck you" are called for seem pretty explicitly ironic to me.

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.


"Cause fuck him, that's why" is from Good Will Hunting. 1997.


great catch, although I wouldn't be surprised if the phrase preceded that, even.


Huh. This new form of "because" in an actual, intended-to-be-grammatically-correct sentence sounds weird to me and I don't think I personally use it at all. Isn't it just "because of" without the "of" when people are in a rush, typing on a tiny keyboard or just plain lazy? Or when the intent is to construct a witty, purposefully broken sentence?


The intent is often to construct a purposefully broken sentence, mirroring the broken logic that comes next. The word after because would only satisfy the question "why?" if you're a moron.

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.


... fluffy, sensational article because The Atlantic.


You know they're hurting when The Atlantic is reporting on trends in Wonkette, Daily Kos, and Jezebel. At least Slate, in their ridiculous "where's the journalism now?" pieces, aims up at the NY Times.


exactly. the whole thing is being blown out of proportion... why did I just read that anyway?


because procrastination


That explains 90% of the Internet.


See also another relatively recent grammatical innovation in English, the evolution of "slash" into a conjunction:

http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2013/04/24/slash-not...

(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...)


Ah that's really cool to see a relatively rare phenomenon like that happening in real time. Also fascinating that the author used Facebook feeds as a source. That seems like it could be a very, very powerful tool for linguistics.

The privacy issues are obvious, but imagine being able to trace the spread of new language construction as it propagates through a population.


I first heard this construct in a Deep Thought by Jack Handey, from the mid-nineties I believe:

"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."


It's not really a new preposition, per se. It's a type of joke. Every occurrence cited here is using it in a jokey fashion. It seems to me you may as well say potatoes are a common topic of conversation on the Internet because of Latvian jokes.


Every occurrence cited here is using it in a jokey fashion.

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.


This is how the word "OK" started out; it was a joke abbreviation of "all correct": Oll Korrect. You never know when a joke is going to take over the world...

[0] http://www.amazon.com/OK-Improbable-Story-Americas-Greatest/...


That is one possible origin of the word; its actual origin is unknown and disputed.


There are many other hypotheses about where the word OK comes from.


> It seems to me you may as well say potatoes are a common topic of conversation on the Internet because of Latvian jokes.

Potatoes are a common talk topic on the net because, like, Latvian jokes.


I thought this usage arose from dropping the word "of" after "because". "Because of" wasn't mentioned anywhere in the article.


It is, in the beginning:

> 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'.


The difference is that it changes the meaning.


How exactly does it change the meaning? Either way it simply ascribes a cause.


We are educated to speak well our language (english, german, french, ....) and most western languages require the speaker to be fully specific. The extent of this varies from language to language, for example, in italian it's grammatical and accepted to say "chi sono?" [who am?] while in english it's not, despite the fact that the "am" means only first person singular. Similar rules are governing the use of articles.

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.


Can't wait for lolcat spelling to become alternative spelling.


I've always used it in a dismissive sense. As if to say "it is the way it is, let's not investigate further"

So "Why do you look so distraught?" "Because PHP" "I am so sorry."


There's other ways of expanding the "because-noun" construction. I've occasionally posted a link to Facebook with a comment like "This is incredibly awesome and you should read this, because SPACE." In this case, the construct expands to something like "...because it has to do with space, which I consider to be inherently awesome."

"Because-noun," it would appear, can be construed multiple ways, and a lot of the meaning is contextual.


Or it could expand to something like "because it has to do with space, which I find boring, but I remember that you're a space nut, therefore you might find it interesting". Or even "because it will help with your school project which is about space".

It's too fickle, too context dependent.


I am not so sure internet idioms are of the same class as professionally written English structure. Otherwise UrbanDictionary and RapGenius should serve as the sources for today's written English.

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!


LOL was added to the OED a couple of years ago [1]. The point of this article is that there have been enough sighting of "because [noun]" in the wild in enough different contexts that it is starting to make that leap into the mainstream, beyond just UrbanDuctionary and it's ilk.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12893416


The grammatical class of prepositions changes considerably more slowly than other classes.

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.


That seems to dumb down the language, rather than improve or evolve it.

> 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).


It means sleep was the cause of lunch being missed. No more details are provided or implied. Off the record, one could guess that the speaker didn't want to remark on oversleeping due to the negative connotations, and is instead leaving the answer vague in the hopes of don't-ask-don't-tell. Depending on the audience, this may also be exactly enough information to be unambiguous with the fewest number of words; a friend may have had prior experiences that set the default interpretation and context of mid-day sleep.

TL;DR: Don't mistake dumb for compression.


I think the implication of dumb is there, but it's supposed to be transferred to the subject of the sentence. As in, the person is mocking himself for being lazy.


How are you pulling original data out of a lossy compression method?


How do you interpret any spoken or written sentence? It is all lossy.


Same way you do when you look at a jpg.


Lossy compression always uses heuristics to guide compression and decompression. In this case, the heuristic is 'my brain works similarly; why would I have written this?'


Because easy, natural, optional, and precise ambiguity is one of the best features a language meant for people can have.

I want to say exactly what I mean to say, neither more nor less.


It's just social media memetic jibber jabber.


The confusion is part of the joke, really; people that are in the same boat, friends of the person that says it, or regulars in the same community (say, Reddit) will go empathic and go "I like totally know what you mean, like". Retweet reblog like favorite pinned shared etc.

Those that aren't in on the joke go "because huh?", which is funny. Because lol internet.


It means the nature of sleep necessitates the skipping of lunch. This isn't actually true however, as we are all well aware. Sleep and lunch are not at odds with one another.

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.


Does anyone think that the speaker's accent has something to do with it? Saying these sentences in my Australian accent just sounds plain wrong and slow. Maybe it's faster in the American accent.


I have always seen "Because noun" as being a dismissive "Don't think to hard about it; that is just the way it is" reason. Or for a situation where there is no rational explanation.

e.g.

A: "Why do some people have such a fetich for eating tiger penis"

B: "Because china"

Am I alone in this?


That's one use of it. Roughly equivalent to the "Aliens" guy meme.

The other meaning is "I don't need to explain why, because it should be obvious". Example: Bacon milkshake, because bacon.


On one hand, this doesn't bother me much because it's mostly just a mutation of "because of" which I already avoid using. You can usually rework "because of <noun>" into "because <phrase>" and produce a sentence that, in my experience, better expresses what the speaker actually intends.

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.


Yes. It's an invocation, rather than an explanation. That's one of the interesting things about it; it's effectively a reversal of the original meaning of the word "because".


It has a different meaning than because of though. Two examples:

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.


In 1914, W.B. Yeats published the book Responsibilities. The first poem, "Pardon Old Fathers" included the lines "And you, silent and fierce old man/Because the daily spectacle that stirred/My fancy...".

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?


Excellent article, worth the read.

Not many comments here, because short attention spans!


I'm not a native speaker. If i add a "of", ("because of short attention spans!") that sounds if it was correct in the past aswell, so I'm confused. For me that seems just leaving out the "of", or is there more?


Depends on how it's used.

"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."


You're exactly right. This is just leaving out the "of". The article interprets this to mean that the word "because" has become a new preposition used in place of the proposition "of". Another interpretation is that "because" retains its grammatical usage but a new sentence structure has become acceptable. I personally interpret it the second way. Each domain has its own grammatical structure.


Even "because of short attention spans" is leaving out information... which (or whose) attention spans are we talking about. There is a qualifier or article missing somewhere. A "his", "their", "some" or something.

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").


That's one aspect to it. The article summarizes it well at the end:

> "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.


That's pretty much it. The linguists just gave it a fancy technical name.

I wouldn't worry too much - this is just a fad.

People get bored and do weird things.


no, there is more. Take "because yay!". Doesn't necessarily make sense if you put an "of" in there. Yet there is something in common between "because yay!" and "because math" that is not there between "because yay!" and "because of math".


I thought this was a good article until I re-read it to cite all the sources.

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.


Good point... I guess I just liked the idea a bit too much.

(I find the evolution of languages quite interesting, especially when technology seems to be involved.)


I don't think preposition is correct. It's still being used as a subordinating conjunction with the second clause being an implied complete sentence.

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 always torn about this sort of thing. its clearly a case of adopting common and (previously?) incorrect usage because it has become popular - this is characteristic of many differences between 'us' and 'uk' english.

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'. :)


I added bacon to my milkshake because delicious/awesome.

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 think you need to say it like this to really be in spirit:

> I added bacon to my milkshake because bacon.


oi this is disturbing. "because bacon" already had tons of uses in the comment thread already. I didn't see that!


You still run a risk of sounding like an idiot if you use this construction. Personally, I would wait a few more years before adopting it in all situations.



Interesting how language can evolve (devolve?) in the face of character limits for online comments. A very memetic fashion, as well.


Being brief is great. I have always felt most people are overly wordy--especially in the technicial fields(600 page programming books go right in my recycling bin), but what I find irratitating is peope who use the constraints of the internet to be cute--too tired to exemplify, but Hip Chicks seem to gravitate towards this way communicating.


This seems somewhat related to "not sure if serious" or the general form "not sure if [adjective]".


The xkcd comic referenced in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6768540 helped me to realise that there is a counter proposition to "because" - "but" - "but minecraft!"


"I rationalize endlessly, because because."


In Greek, there exists the exact same construct from ancient times: "ΛΟΓΩ FOO", i.e. "BECAUSE OF foo".

It's fascinating how languages converge.


It's just "because of" ironically replaced with "because ..." , with the ellipsis omitted


Maybe we should consult the Queen before attempting to ruin her language?


I don't think the article mentions it, Because? Question mark.


I hate theatlantic.com for their sliding down ad at the top.


In Dutch this one already exists: "vanwege".


Which is actually a merger of two words (van wege), which roughly translates to 'because of'. Lots of words are pronounced as if they are one (or always together), and in this case they were eventually written as one.


I'm here, commenting on this because -HN-Timesink


That doesn't seem like a particularly strong example, especially considering the phrase you chose isn't concise. "H N Time Sink".

"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."


I'm here too because work.


I guess it all depends on the meaning of of?


My favorite word that's picked up a new meaning (for me, anyway) is trespass, as in "trespassers will be trespassed"[1].

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.

[1]http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/dictionary/trespassers-wil...


This is trending on HN because Hacker News.


It makes my skin crawl when I see it. I really hope this "because noun" thing doesn't become anything more than the irritating form of humour that it started out as. It is almost as irritating as "on accident".




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: