P S

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A couple of days ago, Victor Steinbok sent to ADS-L some examples like this one, which he heard on a Canadian TV show:

I had to drive him on account of he lost his license.

He added a bunch of web examples of "on account of" introducing clauses, which I'll schematize as "on account of S", e.g.

Well now, that rascal Brer Fox hated Brer Rabbit on account of he was always cutting capers and bossing everyone around.
His life-long dream of becoming an Olympic athlete was dashed at a young age on account of he’s not very athletic.

Victor observed that there is also the variant form "on account that S":

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."
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.

And also examples of the form "on account S":

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'd like to go back to the original example to make the point that bare tensed sentences are also sometimes used (in informal English) as the functional equivalent of the noun-phrase object in other sorts of prepositional phrases, where the preposition is to, on, in, from, etc.:

Another employee did go ahead with the refund to try and calm the situation down at this time we were only hoping for the police to show up due to she was screaming out of control and threatening us.
Oden would be a solid B for me based on he is coming off a major surgery and putting up solid numbers lately.
[A]t that time, she told me she was fearful of her situation with Drew and that she was trying to find a way to live on her own and looking for reasonable housing and find a way to do it based on she really didn't have a whole lot of money at hand because she said he had control of all the finances.
Okay then, what do we know about these vampires? Aside from they're thirsty.
I really adore her because aside from she's beautiful and talented, she's our Kababayan.

There are occasional other cases of  "(P) N of S" besides "(on) account of S":

We have been treated very well, and the audience did make a great racket in spite of they didn't know us.
Then you can get into the problem of they can't ask but when you bring that up they know something is not right.
This is no longer a question of we can wait another year.
He said he was going to go to Iraq, and remember, this was tied to the issue of he'd meet with Ahmadinejad without preconditions.

And there's also  "because of S", which is curious because if you leave out the "of", what's left is standard English:

I don't know if you read about the little kid outside of Dallas who was born with a defect, and the insurance company denied coverage because of he had a pre-existing condition.
The price spikes that accompanied the two Persian Gulf wars did not have deep impacts because of they did not last long enough.
[I]s your position [...] that potentially national security might be at risk because of we are to do without their language skills?

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23 Comments »

  1. William Ockham said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 11:48 am

    All of these make sense to me if I assume that there is a shortening of the phrase "of the fact that" in each sentence:

    I had to drive him on account of [the fact that] he lost his license.

    …due to [the fact that] she was screaming out of control and threatening us.

    …because of [the fact that] he had a pre-existing condition.

    They all seem to be just another of way of saying "because", i.e. as a consequence of the fact that.

  2. Kenny Easwaran said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

    There's also the classic line from West Side Story, "We're depraved on account of we're deprived!"

  3. Jonathon said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

    In the last few years I've noticed a lot of people using "on account of S" jocularly. (Though, of course, I don't know if this is just the recency illusion.) Here's an example (in the last sentence of the second paragraph). I wonder if it's poking fun at an actual increase in use.

  4. James said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    Like William Ockham, I noticed that a whole lot of these are causal. Some are causal but not at all another way of saying 'because'. 'Resulting in' is the converse relation, and 'in spite of' is the complement relation (I suppose that's not exactly right, but close enough maybe?). But then 'aside from' is really not causal at all, and 'the problem of', 'the question of', 'the issue of' aren't either. Maybe all of these non-causal ones are topical? And it seems to me that the topical ones do not become perfectly fine with the addition of 'the fact that', by the way.

    ?? This is no longer a question of the fact that we can wait another year.

    All of the causal ones sound pretty good to me: informal, maybe low register, but very comfortable and fairly common. (I grew up in New York City and these causal constructions with "… of S" have a whiff of nostalgia for me.) The others sound strained, though perfectly comprehensible.

  5. John said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

    Reminds me of ancient Greek διότι.

  6. Jon Weinberg said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

    @Kenny Easwaran,
    No — West Side Story uses the "on account S" form. The preceding line is "In the opinion of this court, this child is depraved on account he ain't had a normal home," to which Action responds is "Hey, I'm depraved on account I'm deprived!" Saying "of" would have messed up the anapestic trimeter that propels Action's line and helps make it funny.

  7. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

    > […] bare tensed sentences are also sometimes used (in informal English) as heads of other sorts of prepositional phrases […]

    Stupid question: I thought that the "head" of a prepositional phrase was the preposition itself, and the rest of the phrase was the "object" or "complement". Was this just a typo on your part, or are you following a different analysis, or did I just have it wrong?

    [(myl) Not a typo, a braino. That's what I get for posting while listening to a panel discussion at a conference.]

  8. James said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

    Jon Weinberg,

    This movie clip has the 'judge' as you report him, but Action's response sounds to me like it has "on account-a", which I take it is a collapsed "on account of". No?

    (It's a little after 3:00.)

  9. Adrian said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

    I can't put my finger on it but there seems to be some kind of phenomenon that leads people to eschew "because", "'cause", "coz" or "cuz" in favour of some more hifalutin or tautological alternative – e.g. seeing as, owing to, due to, on account of, based on, the reason is because – and if the syntax of the alternative is different they ignore that fact.

  10. Jon Weinberg said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

    @James: Good point; I hear it too. Sondheim's published lyrics (at p. 50 of Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981), say "on account I'm". So I guess the "on accounta I'm" entered the picture somewhere after the lyric left its author's hands.

  11. Arnold Zwicky said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

    Some discussion of the examples with of in a posting on my blog, here.

  12. Justin L. said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

    I can't help thinking that there's some connection to the perfectly grammatical parallel constructions in the Romance languages. Looking at the scope of examples, it seems to be the same set as what tradition grammar calls adverbials or subordinators, but as the CGEL points out are just prepositions taking a full sentence as their complement.

    For example, in Spanish you can have:
    (1) A causa de + NP (e.g. A causa de la lluvia, no podemos ir–on account of the rain we can't go)
    (2) A causa de + que + subordinate clause (e.g. A causa de que se llueve, no podemos ir–literally, on account of that it's raining, we can't go)

    Considering that English has a tendency to drop "that"s, is it possible that we're seeing a similar contrast in English (with the "that" dropped)? So:
    (3) ?On account of (that) she has work to do tonight

    Traditional grammar advocates using a genitive + gerund here:
    (4) On account of her working tonight

    I know I've heard this mangled in speech before from many native speakers here in the southwestern USA. "Because" vs "because of" is particularly difficult because "because" does take a full sentence, while "because of" requires conversion to a NP.

  13. Bill Walderman said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

    Is the "on account of S" construction exclusively or primarily limited to North American English speakers, or is this a construction that is prevalent elsewhere, too?

  14. Weathering said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

    I don't find the cited examples grammatical (even for casual/colloquial speech), but they sound just fine with an added how introducing the embedded clause, as in:

    I had to drive him on account of how he lost his license..

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

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

    For me, this doesn't mean "on account of the manner in which S", but just "on account of the fact that S". It's the first thing I thought of when I saw the examples.

  15. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

    Fellas and gals, to me "on account of S" is obsolete, but good. Get a load of this Google ngram result for "on account of" followed by a third-person pronoun, though. There was a sockdolager of a peak in the '40s and early '50s. But it staged a comeback in the '80s. That totally weirded me out, dudes and dudettes.

  16. Sniffnoy said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

    Wait, does "Despite hesitations, Glenn visited soon after, resulting in he and the family immediately becoming interested." really have the same form as the others around it? If it did, wouldn't it instead be "Despite hesitations, Glenn visited soon after, resulting in he and the family immediately became interested."? As is it sounds entirely standard to me.

  17. Eric P Smith said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

    @Bill Walderman

    The "on account of S" construction is found here in the UK but is not so usual. Google shows that “On account of his” outnumbers “On account of he’s” only slightly in the US but by a factor of 5 in the UK.

  18. L'Esprit de l'Escalier said,

    October 27, 2011 @ 7:53 pm

    @Sniffnoy, you are right, given the uncertainty Standard English displays over the case of pronouns in coordinations.

    But Fowler would doubtless prefer either

    resulting in his and the family's immediately becoming interested

    or

    resulting in him and the family immediately becoming interested.

    Actually I'm not sure Fowler would like either version. What is beyond a doubt is that it does not belong in this list of examples involving finite clauses.

  19. SlideSF said,

    October 28, 2011 @ 1:05 am

    I always associate "on account of S" with movie or TV characters who are supposedly ignorant but want to sound educated. Most especially mobsters.

  20. Mary Bull said,

    October 28, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

    First time I ever heard or saw "on account of," I was about 8 years old and got a "Shirley Temple Songbook" for Christmas. Picked this out on the piano and enjoyed singing the song immensely for years.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77wL4PB9qsQ

  21. Mr Punch said,

    October 29, 2011 @ 9:27 am

    Like SlideSF, I associate this usage with pretentious uneducated speech – for a long time a staple of American humor, by the way. Gangsters, yes; in rural settings, it often appears as "counter."

  22. George said,

    November 1, 2011 @ 11:38 am

    The West Side Story line wouldn't work as well rhythmically without a syllable (albeit unaccented) between "on account" and "we're deprived".

  23. Chris Barts said,

    November 2, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

    Reminds me of an old joke:

    "Can you give me some food on account?"

    "On account of what?"

    "On account of I'm broke."

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