English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet - Megan Garber - The Atlantic

Megan Garber traces the evolution of the prepositional because in "English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet," pointing out that the new Web-inspired construction enhances rather than damages language.

As she puts it, "You probably know it better, however, as explanation by way of Internet—explanation that maximizes efficiency and irony in equal measure. I'm late because YouTube. You're reading this because procrastination. As the language writer Stan Carey delightfully sums it up: 'Because' has become a preposition, because grammar.'"

The construction, Garber speculates, likely arose from the Internet memes "because fuck you" and "because race car" but may also be a shortened from of the "because, hey, [noun]" construction already recognized by linguists. Either way, the rapid spread of the punchy, often humorous phrase is clearly a product of that great linguistic bugaboo--electronic communication.

As a realistic descriptivist when it comes to English, I find it refreshing to read positive accounts of grammatical liberties like this. It would seem tempting to denounce the new construction as lazy. Some might argue that a phrase like "because grammar" simply leaves out "of" and that the only difference between "because grammar" and "because of grammar" is the the omission of a word. We shouldn't hail this as a new development, they would argue, simply because the reader is able to mentally fill in the missing word.

However, as Garber explains, there is a difference between "because grammar" and "because of grammar" not only in the writing but also in the reading:

"It conveys focus (linguist Gretchen McCulloch: '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''). It conveys brevity (Carey: 'It has a snappy, jocular feel, with a syntactic jolt that allows long explanations to be forgone')."

For me, this is the beauty of language. Our tendency seems to be to continually experiment with words until we find combinations that express things we didn't even know we needed to express in ways we didn't even know we needed to express them. And this is why whenever I come across even something as banal as a malapropism, I can't help but examine the sentence to see if the writer hasn't somehow unconsciously unlocked some new ability of our words to express thoughts we didn't think we could think.

Because language.




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