As a flashback of our elementary school days, we remember that a preposition is a word which precedes a noun (or a pronoun) to show the noun’s (or the pronoun’s) relationship to another word in the sentence. The word preposition comes from the idea of being positioned before. (It is not true to say that a preposition always precedes a noun or a pronoun, but it does most of the time.)
Examples of prepositions are: above, about, across, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, since, to, toward, through, under, until, up, upon, with and within.
For years prepositions remained more or less the same, so it was easy to remember their usage in everyday English communication. Then some wise guy invented the Internet, and grammar began to change its structure. English now has a new preposition, because Internet. Linguists are recognizing the delightful evolution of the word “because.”
The word ‘because,’ in standard English usage, is a subordinating conjunction, which means that it connects two parts of a sentence in which one (the subordinate) explains the other. In that capacity, ‘because’ has two distinct forms. 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]). These two forms are, traditionally, the only ones to which ‘because’ lends itself.
Mainly due to the influence of the Web, there is another way to use “because.” Linguists are calling it the “prepositional-because.” Or the “because-noun.”
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.”
“Because X is fashionably slangy at the moment, diffusing rapidly across communities. It has a snappy, jocular feel, with a syntactic jolt that allows long explanations to be forgone. Because time-strapped,” writes Carey on his blog.
To illustrate the new use, Carey posts hilarious examples from social media users… because Twitter.
Well here is a nice young man, Fred E. Ray Smith, running for Oklahoma state Senate, from jail, where he was taken for warrants and drunk driving and driving without a license or registration, and also he owes so much child support and his ex has a protective order out against him. We assume he is going to win, because ‘R-Oklahoma.’
If due north was good enough for that chicken’s parents and grandparents and great-great-great-great-grandparents, it’s good enough for that chicken too, damn it. But Iowa still wants to sell eggs to California, because money.
It’s a usage, in other words, that is exceptionally bloggy and aggressively casual and implicitly ironic. And also highly adaptable. Carey has unearthed instances of the “because-noun” construction with the noun in question being, among other terms, “science, math, people, art, reasons, comedy, bacon, ineptitude, fun, patriarchy, politics, school, intersectionality, and winner.”
But the formulation isn’t simply limited to nouns. Carey again:
The construction is more versatile than ‘because+noun’ suggests. Prepositional because can be yoked to verbs (Can’t talk now because cooking), adjectives (making up examples. because lazy), interjections (Because, yay!), and maybe adverbs too, though in strings like Because, honestly., the adverb is functioning more as an exclamation. The resulting phrases are all similarly succinct and expressive.
Which is to say, the “because-noun” form is limited only to the confines of your own imagination. It can be anything you want it to be. English-speaking people are using “because” not just to explain, but also to criticize, and sensationalize, and ironize, just to name a few uses of the new preposition.
I told you English was not a piece of cake. Now you understand why I say that English is a weird language, full of unexpected twists and turns. That’s precisely why it’s so fascinating. Good Day, because hungry.