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Because New

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society and executive producer of Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus, discusses the American Dialect Society's choice for word of the year: the new twitter-based use of the word "because."

 

Guests:

Ben Zimmer

Comments [11]

JFreely from NYC

In the context of feminism, "bossy" is only a bad word if it's only being addressed to girls and not boys.

Mar. 14 2014 11:21 AM
Alex from Park Slope from Brooklyn

The point of grammar I made this morning is the differentiation between "coordinating conjunctions" and "subordinating conjunctions":
"Because" is a coordinating conjunction. It connects two independent clauses, without subordinating one to the other. "I eat because I am hungry": both clauses "I eat" and "I am hungry" are independent clauses; "because" merely imparts causality. When one uses "because" to connect "His reason to take the train is..." and "he doesn't like to fly", the grammatical integrity is violated because the verb "is" in the first part is left dangling. Here, "The reason... is" needs a subordinate clause, in this case "I don't like to fly". The correct conjunction to use is a subordinating conjunction such as "that" and then we have a grammatically correct structure, "His reason to take the train is THAT he doesn't like to fly".

Jan. 08 2014 11:24 PM
JFreely from NYC

Fuva is right, "SO" deserves it's own segment. I first heard this trend on WNYC. Not only has it completely replaced "WELL" when people answer questions, a lot of people start sentences with it too. It sounds very disconnected from the interviewer, like the person answering is on their own track and I'd even say it sounds disrespectful to the one questioning. Answering with the traditional "WELL" sounds like polite explanation and a continuum of the ideas. "SO" is disjointed, it almost sounds arrogant, like the person answering is full of themselves and not caring. It makes my blood boil, I hate this trend SO much!

Jan. 08 2014 12:23 PM
philior from Brooklin

It is very regretful and quite ironic that the discussion about contemporary language particularities has overlooked the most commonly and frequently used nonsensical words as "YOU-KNOW" and "LIKE". While talking about improper use of other words Brian Lehrer used YOU-KNOW without registering it.
The general deafness to the idiocy of most young people's way of talking using the word "LIKE" two, three, sometimes four times a sentence is appalling.
The only public persona punished for excessive use of "YOU-KNOW" was Caroline Kennedy, who used it 168 times during 30-minute interview.
Just before the New York mayor elections De Blasio used it 70 times during his 15-minute interview with Anne Sale. No one paid attention.

Jan. 08 2014 12:16 PM
Elsie from Brooklyn

Nice to know that French arrogance is alive and well.

In fact, given Alex's example you can use either 'that' or 'because'. Either word can introduce a noun clause, which is what it is doing in his example. In this case, the noun clause is acting as the subject complement to the linking verb "be". And by the way, 'that' is not a coordinating conjunction. It can take on several different grammatical forms depending on how it functions in the sentence, but coordinating conjunction is not one of them.

Imagine if an American went on French radio to correct French people's grammar. Hysterical.

Jan. 08 2014 12:00 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Yo, 'so' needs its own segment. That current verbal tic reflects the current zeitgeist...

Jan. 08 2014 11:59 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

As a former editor and proofreader, I am not a fan of encouraging incorrect use of language just because it's "online." BECAUSE sooner or later, the younger generation will make it habit, and no one will bother using correct grammar, usage, and word tense anymore.

One other habit that drives me nuts is the use of present tense by any number of radio personalities when recounting a story that happened in the past. Contrary to the reason this is likely done, using present tense does not make a story seem more riveting! Shame on This American Life and Radiolab and others for encouraging this mode of storytelling.

Jan. 08 2014 11:59 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

The word "because" is NOT always used with "of." It is context dependent. What has changed when texting is the spelling (b/cos).

What bothers me right now is the improper use of the word "excited." The correct use is "excited about," NOT "excited to." And that has NOTHING to do with tweeting or texting or anything else except poor usage going uncorrected because it is considered politically incorrect to do so.

This is decline without declension.

Jan. 08 2014 11:57 AM
yosif from manhattan

Because being the word of the year reminds me of when Time Magazine named "you" the person of the year. Lame. Why? Because.

Jan. 08 2014 11:56 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

This "new" use of "because" is irritating with its frequent use in advertising/marketing.

Jan. 08 2014 11:51 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

... Because laziness.

Jan. 08 2014 11:46 AM

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