Wondering what is going on in sentences like this, because grammar.
August 28, 2013 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Lately I've been seeing something crop up a fair bit in casual writing where an entire explanatory clause is humorously collapsed to "because X." You've seen it: "And then I ate four of the muffins, because chocolate." Or writer Tabatha Southey tweeting about newborn Prince George: Okay, now I am happy the baby is here and I want to put its tiny baby foot in my mouth, because baby. What's happening, grammatically? How might a linguist describe it?
posted by wdenton to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
You know how the subject of sentences is sometimes "you [understood]"? Well this is grammar [understood].

"And then I ate four of the muffins, because [they are made of] chocolate [and chocolate is delicious]."

"Okay, now I am happy the baby is here and I want to put its tiny baby foot in my mouth, because [it is a] baby [and babies are delicious]."
posted by phunniemee at 1:03 PM on August 28, 2013 [8 favorites]

Language Log has a short note on this.

Urban Dictionary cites this as a source for the variant because of reasons.

And finally, I wonder if this is one of the many things people pick up because Wil Wheaton said it.
posted by clavicle at 1:04 PM on August 28, 2013 [8 favorites]

[Folks, just answer the question.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:11 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I do this verbally when I realize the thing I'm about to say is not a super great reason but, like in the muffin example, I LOVE CHOCOLATE and yeah, that. That's the reason. I think it's just a coloquial thing that comes up more in speech but since we so often write/type these days it quickly made it into blogs/"news" articles. And seconding the "because of reasons" though usually if that's what I'm going for I will quote it directly.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 1:26 PM on August 28, 2013

In both the baby and chocolate examples, dropping those words indicates that the "reason" is so overwhelming that long explanations don't suffice. It is a performative shorthand to foreground that everyone agrees on the overall experience of wonderfulness with babies or chocolate. It mimics the primitive nonverbal reaction (YAY! or YUM! or CUTE!) you're humorously describing.
posted by third rail at 1:26 PM on August 28, 2013 [13 favorites]

In my experience, this has come out of internet/meme culture. I see it a lot in fandom and on tumblr, usually associated with writing in all caps and "squeeing." Like clavicle above says, in my mind it is related to "because of reasons." You start off with a grammatically correct sentence explaining an action that you or someone else is taking, and then end the sentence with a silly, gramatically incorrect phrase to draw attention to the motivation for the action in a slightly self-effacing way. Usually the reason is something that would generally be viewed by society as something frivolous or "girlish" (chocolate and babies in your example, I see it a lot in fandom with cute boys - "I like one direction because Zayn" or similar concepts).

The sentence is said in such a way that it implies that the reason for the action is so serious and universal that it doesn't even need to be explained because everyone would feel the same way. Because babies. And chocolate. But really, the speaker is aware that it's not very serious and they're deliberately exaggerating for comic effect.

I'm not explaining it articulately, but your example would be: "And then I ate four of the muffins, because chocolate [is so amazing and everyone loves chocolate and there doesn't need to be any further explanation because it's chocolate. CHOCOLATE. But I know that not everyone loves chocolate, I'm just exaggerating be slightly silly as I make a point]."

It is definitely trendy, but I don't think thinkpiece's "Trendy, because infantile" example makes sense in the way I see it being used. If anything, it would be "the language used on social media sites today tends to be trendy and infantile, because fandom" or something to that effect.
posted by Nickel at 1:34 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I asked about it in Metatalk here. On preview: I don't know how to make that link go directly to my comment in the thread. Anyway, you might find the discussion after my comment leads to some useful links.

I will not give my opinion of the construction because rules (in Askmetafilter proscribe editorializing.)
posted by vincele at 1:55 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know a slightly different variant of "Because of reasons" which is "Because of $REASONS" which is sort of saying "There is a variable that goes here that is sort of replaceable with a whole bunch of things which you probably already know and just assume there is a reason that is a good one and you can fill it in yourself let's move on to the next thing now please"

So I first knew "because of reasons" in which reasons was something maybe a little embarrassing or stupid and this was a self-effacing way to say it. Then I knew the variable-insertion version of it. Then I knew the "Because cake" version which seemed to be a natural progression which was sort of, in my head, like saying "The variable that I am putting in this slot is "cake" and I presume you know enough about cake to understand and flesh out in your own mind why cake is a reason that I would be going to this particular birthday party"

So I view it as a weird substitution thing where you have a list of things that people know about and they have a bunch of qualities that are presumed to be true for those things and that we all feel the same way about (within the group that the discussion is happening in) and so you can just insert the one word for the whole explanation. It's a familiarity thing as well as a "let's fit this on twitter" thing. It sort of reminds me of the joke about the people who told the numbers of the jokes instead of the jokes. This is one variation.
posted by jessamyn at 1:58 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I especially see it a lot when explaining something absurd. Like during the whole NYC no sodas bigger than 8 ounces or whatever it was, when it got knocked down there were a lot of "I'm going to drink a 100oz soda because AMERICA!" I also see this a lot in Texas because sometimes we do weird stuff here and the only explanation is "because Texas, that's why."
posted by magnetsphere at 2:01 PM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yes, I always thought it was that you were saying your thing and the reason was so overwhelmingly awesome that you forgot everything else and just said "chocolate" or "baby". Like in the movie "Up" when the dogs go "SQUIRREL!!!!!!"

I don't link it to "because of reasons" because I think "because of reasons" is more the opposite: "I don't have a good reason, so I will just say reasons". And "because chocolate" is "OMG CHOCOLATE", which is a very good reason from the speaker's point of view.

I think that preposition makes it different, linguistically, in how we parse it. "I'm going to the store, because reasons" doesn't make sense to me. "I'm going to the store, because of reasons" would make me think you were up to something sketchy that you don't want to tell me about. "I'm going to the store, because chocolate" would make me think that you absolutely loved chocolate.
posted by chainsofreedom at 2:01 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

What's interesting is that there is a similar (though not identical) construct in French [because + adjective or noun] which is totally and completely acceptable in formal writing.


Ils étaient heureux parce que victorieux.
They were happy because [they were] victorious.

Il y a une majuscule à "Chine" et à "Chinois" parce que noms propres ici.
There is a capital letter in "China" and "Chinese" because [they are] proper nouns here.
Real example gleaned from the web!

I know French fairly well, but not natively. If anyone with better skills wants to comment on this, that would be much appreciated.
posted by dhens at 2:07 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think in the French case, though, it is always a form of être (to be) which is being elided.
posted by dhens at 2:13 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Removing lots of stuff from a sentence is not a problem: short answers work syntactically if they can assume parts from discourse context. We can assume that discourse context includes linguistic material that is so obvious it doesn't need to be said aloud.

'Do you want a piece of this cake?'
-No, [I want] three [pieces of cake].

'Did you enjoy seeing that family?'
-Of course, because baby [was so cute]!

Also I don't think it is based on 'because [of] something'. (As a non-native speaker) I think that
a) I love her because she.
b) *I love her because her.
(a) sounds better than (b), and (b) would be the result of
'I love her because [of] her.'

*= syntactically broken/unacceptable

More could be done by testing what kind of material is acceptable for that construction, and if there would be structures that prevent making that interpretation. e.g. questions.

*How much do you drink because alcoholism?
How much do you drink because alcoholism much?
posted by Free word order! at 2:26 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

If anyone with better skills wants to comment on this, that would be much appreciated.

Okay, going against AskMe directives because reasons. Such as, it will help the asker.

The first French example is eliding être, while the second is not French, it looks like a terrible translation. There is no grammatically-correct equivalent to the English examples, and indeed, translating them directly, which that second example about proper names does, leaves a reader going, "what??" You know what it should mean, it just sounds like someone's gone and leapfrogged because they don't really care about being understood. In the case of explaining grammatical concepts, as that second French example is, it kind of sucks. But for more casual purposes, it is somewhat related to English uses, as that LanguageLog post linked above mentions. You could say "duh", for instance, with an easy-going tone: "I ate all the cookies because duh" and it has essentially the same effect.

Honestly that's what I'd consider the genuine explanation; uses of this construct depend on mutual understanding and desire to chill, which is accentuated by contraverting rules of expression. For instance, even if you have a gluten intolerance (hi!) and so can't eat the vast majority of chocolate muffins, most humans would agree that anything chocolate has a high probability of being delicious. Likewise, most humans agree that babies are eminently nommable. What's happening grammatically is that grammar is being short-circuited, because who cares. Babies and chocolate take precedence, man.
posted by fraula at 1:14 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's a trendy formulation implying that "I don't need to explain fully because you will know what I mean". It suits twitter-style micro-blogging. A quote by Frank Zappa captures the spirit of what I think is going on, "Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read.".
posted by epo at 2:07 AM on August 29, 2013

Every person I know (internet and RL) who uses this phrase traces its roots to this comic strip (which clavicle has already pointed out). That doesn't mean the artist invented it, but I have seen it linked again and again as the root of the phrasing.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:24 AM on August 30, 2013

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