Associations Now, “Because Innovation: Dialect Society Names ‘Because’ Word of the Year”

January 8, 2014

Rob Stott, “Because Innovation: Dialect Society Names ‘Because’ Word of the Year” (Associations Now, Jan. 8, 2014)

Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks clearly has never played around with the English language.

At their annual meeting last weekend, members of the American Dialect Society (ADS) had some fun with the language themselves, noting and debating the ways that vocabulary and usage have morphed over the past year. A highlight of the event was the announcement of ADS’s 2013 Word of the Year.

Their choice, by attendee vote? A word that has been a part of our lexicon for centuries: because.

“If people were trying to place bets beforehand, I don’t think that would’ve been on too many people’s radars,” said Ben Zimmer, chair of ADS’s New Words Committee. “It’s a very old word that’s deeply embedded in the language, which people are finding new ways to use, and very often it’s intentionally playing with the established rules of grammar. I think the fact that this is such a linguistic innovation really appealed to a room full of linguists.”

In addition to using because before a full clause or with the word of, it can now precede a noun, like “because science,” or before an adjective, like “because awesome,” Zimmer explained. “At first it seems like a very odd choice, but the more you think about it, the more you realize exactly how innovative it is, even if it’s just a seemingly nondescript word.”

Read the rest here. (Related Word Routes column)

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