We all have one: that restrictive adult, somewhere, who tells us how to use our own language. Speak in complete sentences. Don’t split infinitives. Don’t end your sentences with a preposition. Use “literally” as it was intended. And for goodness sake, use “who” when you’re talking about a person or an animal with a name, but if not use “that,” but only if you’re talking about something related, and if you’re not, use “which” and set it off with commas unless you brushed your teeth three times on the last Tuesday of an October in an election year.
It’s confining. It’s prohibitive. It’s stifling. Because, words. They’re moving as fast as we are these days, and grammar rules are struggling to keep up with the quick-paced, technologically oriented lifestyle we lead here, in the present. And in all actuality, the grammar rules aren’t keeping up. Instead, they’re evolving.
One such adjustment gaining steam is the “because, noun” syntax sneaking into everyday conversation.
“Because now works as a stand-alone preposition,” Writing Center director Danny Gerling says. “I’ve seen it a lot on Twitter… things often start as a social media phenomenon and then move onward.”
The “because, noun” trend is thought to have actually started back in 2011 with a post on none other than Craigslist, the world’s most archaic form of online social media. In an effort to sell a very old car, the owner describing the vehicle said his Mazda MX3 was “completely stripped inside because race car.” After spending time purely as a “because, race car” reference, the “because, noun” phenomena has moved on to bigger and more universal applications. Because, trends. They catch on.
“I’ve said, ‘because, ew,’ when I’m being a germaphobe,” junior Erin Williams said.
Senior Dylynn Makepeace has noticed the because, noun trend being used among companions.
“Although I don’t personally use the ‘because-noun’ trend, I think it’s amusing and I appreciate people who are quick enough to come up with the absurd word combinations on the spot,” Makepeace said.
Word evolutions are not limited to this trend alone. Youth are also using the word “slash” as a transitional word over text when face-to-face interaction isn’t available for lengthy, graceful transitions. LOL is no longer used to denote a gut-busting, floor-rolling, guffaw-worthy statement, but instead is an expression of empathy or accommodation, something called a pragmatic particle, or a word that is used, not for its literal definition, but because of what it means in context to the speakers.
And if there’s a fancy grammar word for these phenomena, we can’t be screwing up the English language too badly.
In his recent TED talk titled “Txtng is killing language. JK!!!,” linguist John McWhorter said that language was created to be spoken first, and writing only came about later.
“You can do things with language that are much less likely if you’re just talking,” McWhorter said. And texting, he added, is much more like talking than anything else.
This is because the devices we use have made it easier to type at the rate of speech and to have these written speech blurbs received quickly, in a pace — and therefore style — much more consistent with speaking that writing.
And speech, McWhorter said, “is much looser. It is much more telegraphic. It is very different from writing. What language is is speech.”
It is this loose style that allows us to create new ways to use the language that is already at our disposal, and because of this ability, “a whole new language has developed,” McWhorter says. Hashtag, you know it.
Because, twitter. Social media, much like texting and the internet, is responsible for many new and unorthodox linguistic opportunities. Hashtag is no longer a twitter handle. Instead, it’s something you’d better get a handle on, because young adults are using technological resources to overhaul the English language in a way that some may label “wrong.” Instead, it’s simply uncharted.
After all, people from all over have been complaining since 63 A.D. that language has been going downhill. And look where we are now, with a language that grows not more incorrect, or more crass, or more limited, but increasingly more complex, flexible and beautiful.
So tell me again to speak in complete sentences. And I’ll split an infinitive if I want to. And you know what? Within reason, I’m going to break the rules in order to create new ones. Because, future.