on account of clause

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 25 23:54:44 UTC 2011

I sent this earlier, but from a wrong account. When I re-sent it, it
bounce because it had been processed once already. GREAT! So I am
sending it one more time with a slight alteration. Hopefully, it goes


What prompted this post is a line (scripted, no doubt) from a Canadian
TV show that I've mentioned at least once previously.

DaVinci's Inquest, Season 2 (2000) Episode 11 @10:40
> I had to drive him on account of he lost his license.

I've heard both "on account of" and "on account that" where the
complement sounded OK in some instances and did not in others--usually,
depending on syntax. I have a couple of examples of each below that look
fairly prototypical. Then there is also "on account" without an extra
preposition. I am not talking about simple NP complements, but full
clauses or sentence fragments. Wiktionary has an entry for "on account
of" that is not entirely helpful.

> Well now, that rascal Brer Fox hated Brer Rabbit on account of he was
> always cutting capers and bossing everyone around.

> But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes,.... Not at this time,
> and for this prayer of his, but on account of he and Aaron not
> sanctifying him at the waters of Meribah; or of some expressions of
> unbelief, and unadvised words, which dropped from his lips through
> their provocation of him.

> His life-long dream of becoming an Olympic athlete was dashed at a
> young age on account of he's not very athletic.

> On the contrary, if people want to bring up non-musical reasons why
> he's actually good, I can add that wayne is fake on account that he is
> claiming that he is a gang member.

> Mr. Gross' Total Return Fund lost 0.4% this year (after posting five
> years' worth of near-eight percent gains) after it dumped US
> Treasuries from its books on account that they were seen as "too
> expensive."

> Activivists have called for a need to put in place a law that will
> revoke the registration of churches and religious leaders whose
> teaching bars their followers from seeking medical care on account
> that only prayers can cure them.

> You can tell it was a pretty nice day on account they're not wearing
> any protective clothing except for goggles and a mask.
> ...
> Well here he is fit to bust on account he can't break off any of these
> statues right.


> I asked why it done it and they said it was on account of he looked
> suspicious and if you study the expression on his face you can see how
> they got to wondering about him.
> ...
> Only they don't have no sex life on account of they haven't had any
> babies in thousands of years. He sure had us all laughing.
> ...
> They asked me did I want it stuffed and that handed me a laugh on
> account of where would I put it once I got it home, right?

The original line--the one from Da Vinci's Inquest, I would mark as *,
but, obviously, it's, at best, a ?. The rest are ranging somewhere
between the two. I am not including any where I don't see any problems
but YMMV. Also note that the semantics on some of these is messed up.
Usually, a simple "because" communicates more or less the same message.
But in some, the complement is the explanation of the observation, not
of the phenomena. An example from above:

> Only they don't have no sex life on account of they haven't had any
> babies in thousands of years. He sure had us all laughing.

I suppose, one could say "they have no sex life because they've had no
babies in thousands of years". But what it really say IMO is "We know
they have no sex life because they've had no babies in thousands of years".

Perhaps I'm making yet another mountain out of a molehill again. There
is nothing intrinsically wrong with "on account of". I have trouble
accepting it when the complement is Nominative. In the other two cases
("that" and null), I have trouble accepting the entire corpus--I
suppose, I would prefer "of". And, to top it off, in most cases I would
not even use "on account of" for stylistic reasons, but that has nothing
to do with grammaticality.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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