A trivium from the Web: because kidding?

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 18 13:00:10 UTC 2014

On Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 11:20 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
> Probably not mockery; that's our Word of the Year you're talking, because duh
> (http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/because-wins-2013-word-of-the-year-vote-because-awesome/)
> This very day two students in our Grammatical Diversity in  U.S. English class
> presented on "Because X", its history, distribution, syntactic constraints, etc.
> etc.  More complicated than it seems! (One hypothesis is that its rise may have
> been influenced by "because YOLO", which was originally understood as 'because
> you only live once', then when the acronym "YOLO" became just plain "yolo",
> "because" was reanalyzed to be able to take other nouns, adjectives, etc. as
> complements.  A possibility, anyway. There are others out there.)

Intriguing theory, though the rise of "because X" slightly preceded
the "YOLO" fad. As the Spring 2014 edition of "Among the New Words" in
AmSp will demonstrate, "because X" began circulating in 2010, with the
canonical "because reasons" appearing on Twitter in Feb./Mar. of that


And Jalopnik's "because race car" meme took off in Jan. 2011:


As for "because YOLO," the earliest I find in the Twitter archive is
in a consciously acronym-heavy tweet from May 2011:


...but it didn't become popular until late 2011 (when "YOLO" started
taking off more generally thanks to Drake's "The Motto"):


For more on "because YOLO" and other cases of "because X" with
compressed clauses, see Tyler Schnoebelen's Idibon post:



Ben Zimmer

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

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