Because NOUN

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Lindy West "Are Men Going Extinct?", Jezebel 7/11/2012:

Did you hear the big news? Men are going extinct. Really really slowly, and probably only in theory, but extinct nonetheless! [...]

Lame! RIP, dudes! Now, I'm sure kneejerk anti-feminist dickwads think that the eradication of men is exactly what we women mean by "plz can we have equal rights now thx." Because logic.

This use of because as a preposition (without a helping "of") appears here and there these days. It seems usually to be associated with an implication that the referenced line of reasoning is weak, as in the example above; or in the headline "Louisiana GOP Bigot Changes Mind on School Vouchers Because Muslims", LGF 7/6/2012; or in this episode of Quiltbag:

"Because NOUN" may come from some TV show or other meme-source that I've missed — whatever the story is, some commenter will probably be able to tell us what happened.

Update — "because (of) reasons" is an echo of this (though not, I think, a causal one).

Update #2 — another sighting here: "But Iowa still wants to sell eggs to California, because money."

Update #3 — and another one

Update #4 — a slightly different pattern:

Well here is a nice young man, Fred E. Ray Smith, running for Oklahoma state Senate, from jail, where he was taken for warrants and drunk driving and driving without a license or registration, and also he owes so much child support and his ex has a protective order out against him. We assume he is going to win, because “R-Oklahoma.”



95 Comments

  1. Michael said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 6:28 am

    Lindy West's article is rather funny! She does err, however, when she talks about palindromes: "certain palindromic DNA strands, like CTAGCTAG and GATCGATC, are bad".

  2. Adam Roberts said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 6:44 am

    I'm guessing the reason the 'because NOUN' formulation appeals as a comic gloss is its timing; missing out expected elements between the 'because' and the noun (like '…of the …' ' … it ignores the …' and so on) messes with our sense of how the text we're reading flows, wrongfoots us, and so enforces a particular comic timing. It's a small effect, but it's hard to direct the pace or rhythm at which printed text should be read, and timing is so essential a component of writing The Funny, so it has a disproportionate effect.

  3. Chris Surridge said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 6:50 am

    Michael, I'm afraid that is a specialist usage of 'palindrome'. Those are palindromes to molecular biologists as the DNA double-strand they form is the same read forwards or backwards.

    C-G
    T-A
    A-T
    G-C
    C-G
    T-A
    A-T
    G-C

  4. Stan said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 6:54 am

    Maybe it arose from the "because racecar" meme.

    [(myl) The link says that

    “Because Racecar” started on January 26, 2011 on jalopnik.com’s off-topic forum “Opposite Lock.” The actual phrase came from a Craigslist posting for a Mazda MX-3, where in the description, the seller said the car has been modified “because race car.”

    ...but I'm sure that I've seen the "because NOUN" construction before that date, though I can't provide a citation at the moment.]

  5. Brian T said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 7:22 am

    The first place I saw this is PageOneKentucky.com, whose writer most often uses it with "Jesus," as in "Remember when Unka Dick Cheney hated the gays because jesus or because Republicanism or something?" The rhetorical effect I see isn't "the reasoning is weak" so much as "there is no point in engaging with the person offering this argument; he sees his reasoning as self-evident or unassailable." So it's less "the reasoning is weak" and more "somebody else sees the reasoning as very strong."

    Here and there, I've also seen "because Jeebus" a lot. We need a whole nother discussion of the growing trend of changing "Jesus" to "Jeebus" in comments on the Web. Sometimes it's for comic effect, sometimes it's a satirical slur on someone else's intelligence, and sometimes it might be a way to elude the automatic comment censor. Any other rationales?

  6. hdp said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 7:23 am

    The earliest-occurring "because X" I've found so far is "because fuck you", e.g. http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-100150.html (from 2001).

  7. ambrosen said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 7:25 am

    Like Stan said, I think it's from that ad. I came across it used a huge amount on Jalopnik, a sister site to Jezebel, and would say it started about then. I have to say, I like it as a coinage. Because succinct.

  8. Aleks said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 7:26 am

    The "because race car" meme could very likely be the origin of the construction, though I wonder if it's also related to the "because of reasons" (http://threewordphrase.com/pardonme.htm) meme, with the preposition eventually deleted.

  9. gooners said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 7:31 am

    "Jeebus" is from The Simpsons, in the episode where Homer gives up religion his house catches on fire while he's sleeping on the couch. He wakes up and yells, "save me Jeebus!"

    I don't know where the "because noun" concept started. In addition to the other commentary about it, I think it also parodies the the thinking of insular groups – you're supposed to just "get" why through that one word, "Muslims", or "logic" or whatever as a member of the group.

  10. Pete said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 7:35 am

    I think it comes from dialogues where a why? question is answered with a one-word response rather than the expected fully-reasoned explanation.

    For example, using the Louisiana GOP example linked to above:
    -Why are you withdrawing your support for the school voucher plan?
    -Muslims!
    -She's changing her mind because: Muslims.

    Or using the I LIKE THIS example in the cartoon:
    -Why do you like this?
    -Reasons.
    -You like this because…reasons?

    The single word following because points out the inadequacy of the reasoning – one word in place of an entire argument.

  11. mollymooly said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 8:11 am

    Does this come before or after or in any way relate to "because screw you that's why"?

  12. mollymooly said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 8:13 am

    I mistyped the timestamp in my previous comment; it should be earlier than hdp's.

  13. Stan said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 8:25 am

    I'm sure that I've been the "because NOUN" construction before that date, though I can't provide a citation at the moment.

    Mark: Same here.

  14. fs said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 8:31 am

    I agree completely with Pete, for what it's worth.

  15. Anonymous said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 8:44 am

    Yeah, this began with all-caps NOUN. As in: "universal healthcare is a bad thing, because COMMUNISM!!!!" It might be interesting to see where this originated. It's probably a bit older than you'd think, but I recall it becoming popular online around 2005.

  16. Theodore said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 8:46 am

    Googling "because why because" (with quotes) came up with this 2005 blogpost titled "Because Why? Because CONSEQUENCES": http://www.spidercamp.com/2005/11/because_why_bec.html

  17. Mr Punch said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:07 am

    Somewhat like mollymooly, I connect this with "Shut up, he explained."

  18. Mark said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:10 am

    Gooners, I don't recall "Jeebus" being used in that Simpsons episode (and can't find it in the admittedly suspect script reconstructions online), but rather in the much later episode where Homer, on the run from PBS pledge collectors, gets conscripted by missionaries:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVwCYJj4THQ

  19. Andrew said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:13 am

    It might have crept in from Spanish, in which "why" and "because" are basically the same word.

  20. Theophylact said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    And I've certainly seen "because shut up" (or "because STFU").

  21. Ellen K. said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:15 am

    I don't understand either example in the original post. I don't know for certain if it's because I'm failing to understand the construction, or if I'm not understanding the context. I actually interpreted "because" as used like an adjective in the first example. Not that it makes any sense that way in context. Though neither does adding in an "of" after because. For me anyway.

    Looking at the one "because NOUN" example that I do follow, "Because race car" in the comments, I'm thinking that this construction requires a good understanding of the context. It seems to mean "because of something to do with NOUN", with context supplying the specific connection.

  22. Eric P Smith said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:16 am

    "Because racecar" nicely links the themes of "because NOUN" and palindrome.

  23. Sam said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:20 am

    Of the two ways of parsing this – as a PP with an omitted preposition, or a CP stripped down to an NP with an omitted verb – I think a CP analysis works slightly better, (especially since others have pointed out "because screw you, that's why" is probably related).

    And I think the humor derives from an unspoken "exist" VP; the NP for an expected CP gives the noun a transcendent, constant, or fixed quality.

    Here's my proposed parse:
    Breakfast is great because [CP [DP [NP waffles (VP exist)]]].

    Note that it's an NP (not a DP) because it becomes strange with a determiner:
    *because the bagel

    Also adjectives, either on their own or with a noun, don't work:
    * I like NY because buildings (exist) tall.
    ?* This apartment is great because huge (exists).
    ?* This is a great joke because funny (exists).

    And I think the verb "exist" is also appropriate because the noun typically can't be singular or a count noun:
    This tea is sweet because sugar
    * Breakfast is great because waffle
    ?* because racecar (anyone have any ideas on this??)

  24. jdmartinsen said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:28 am

    Good Will Hunting, (1997): "'Cause fuck him, that's why." (IMDB)

  25. Joe said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:32 am

    My favorite variation is "because science." especially when the preceding is long-winded and detailed, that "wrong footed" rhythm is just delightful to the mind's ear.

  26. Matt Hardigree said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:52 am

    I can definitively state that it started because Jalopnik as it's editor and can be reached to talk about that magical day:

    http://becauseracecar.org/2011/03/11/the-origin-of-why-because-race-car/

  27. Because Whence? | SPH - Small penis humiliation said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    [...] know where the "because [NOUN]" construction came from? If I had to guess it would be someone using "Because Jesus," probably in a despairing [...]

  28. Aaron Toivo said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 10:01 am

    In its current usage – whatever the origins are – I get the feeling that the only thread common to all such nonstandard "because" clauses is that they increase impact by dropping everything but the most crucial content words. There is no restriction that what remains be a noun, as shown by "because shut up" and "because succinct" above. That's a verb and an adjective; I've also seen it with adverbs: "There's no way I'm putting up with that kind of crap, because seriously." And even interjections: "I hate shaving my legs, because ouch!".

  29. Dean said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 10:02 am

    I was just going to mention the Good Will Hunting quote, though I don't think it is necessarily the origin.

    My analysis of it had always been that "because" here is being used like it would to introduce a full clause. The only things that seem to fit in "because X" for me are interjections ("Because f*ck you!", "Because shut up!") or big, singular ideas ("Because science.")

  30. Rod Johnson said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 10:08 am

    The Straightdope link abut connects to something we used to say, "The way I look at it is fuck you." There's just something about the way the short-circuited syntax reflects the short-circuited logic that's funny.

    Also, in things like "because science" and "because Jesus" I don't think the implication is that the logic is weak–it's that the logic is obvious, whether it's to the person uttering it or to the person being satirized. The satire isn't part of the construction, it's part of the context of the construction.

  31. Dean said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 10:09 am

    @Aaron Toivo

    I forgot about "because seriously" and "because really". Though, again, I'd say both of those words are being used as interjections.

  32. Hamilton-Lovecraft said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 10:12 am

    There's also "because of reasons", originally from this (unfortunately undated) Three Word Phrase webcomic: http://threewordphrase.com/pardonme.htm , which manages to retain grammatical weirdness in spite of the "of".

    I think Pete's one-word-answer-to-a-complex-question construction is the best template for "because X". Sometimes, though, the original answer was complex and nuanced ("Well, it turns out that Leibniz addressed this as early as 1675…") but the speaker was bored with the complexity ("because math").

  33. Rod Johnson said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 10:19 am

    The Jezebel article also contains the following: "1. All jars would remain closed. Wait, feminism. 80% of jars would remain closed."

    Wait, feminism seems like the exact same phenomenon, only without the because: using a simple noun as proxy for a whole complex of associations. So I think the because is kind of incidental here.

  34. Erin Lazzaro said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 10:24 am

    @gooners

    I can assure you Jeebus is much older than the Simpsons. If you think anything on that show is completely new, it's going over your head.

  35. Rebecca said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 10:55 am

    It strikes me as related to the "because .. yeah" that's been quite common for at least 5 or 6 years, I would guess. I hear it mostly with kids: a short explanation, ending with "because … Yeah". The implication being, more or less, that the reasons should be obvious by now.

    I hear it from kids (10-11 yo) in casual speech, not in formal presentations. The fact that it's slightly dismissive probably cues them, but I find it interesting which kinds of register differences kids recognize intuitively, and which they need coaching on.

  36. Darryl McAdams said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 11:06 am

    It wouldn't surprise me if there's a more direct route to it than "because fuck you thats why" sorts of things. Consider, "because of NOUN" in colloquial English is "because'a NOUN" with a reduced "of" that's pronounced as just a schwa. As soon as you have that, it's not long before people stop pronouncing the schwa altogether.

  37. mike said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 11:17 am

    I can't tell if people have called this out explicitly, but I hear/read this construction in a context in which the "noun" part is emphasized — not just by its isolation, but in speech. Example is the "because COMMUNISM!!" example from Mr or Ms Anonymous above, and it's possible (would help to hear the dialogue) that the Good Will Hunting cite also includes vocal emphasis. I'd expect in most cases to either see an exclamation mark following, or "noun" set in italics or caps. The Jezebel example is interesting, though, because the emphasis doesn't really work there as well.

    It would be great if people could track down the source for this. It's actually quite useful, and I agree with Joe that when wielded well, the construction is delightful.

  38. Steve from Pittsburgh said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 11:22 am

    I hear this all the time in my spoken sociolect- college-educated people in their early 20's in suburban Pittsburgh. It isn't always used in a comedic or sardonic manner, either.

    For example:

    "I couldn't make it to the meeting because engine."

    "My legs are sore because running"

    The construction itself isn't derogatory. As Rod Johnson and Aaron Toivo said, its main purpose is brevity. It's a more succinct way of saying "and so on" or "you can figure out the rest." Sometimes, though, understanding the part after "because" requires a context that the speaker would expect of the listener, making it a sort of shibboleth or in-reference.

    "I'm skilled at climbing hills because Pittsburgh"

    doesn't make much sense unless the listener knows that Pittsburgh neighborhoods tend to be separated by hills, so you have to climb constantly to get around the city.

    "Sitting in traffic doesn't bother me because 28"

    requires one to know that State Route 28 is almost always at a standstill. Otherwise, the listener wouldn't get it.

    A lot of commentary on this blog seems to attribute this, and other patterns of informal speech, to some internet meme or other. I'm not sure whether memes influence speech more than speech influences memes. Could it be that "because reasons" became a hit because young people talk that way? Certainly there is a lot of crossover both ways.

  39. gooners said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 11:24 am

    @Erin Lazzaro
    You can assure me by saying where it came from?

  40. Quixotrist said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    1997 "Good Will Hunting" is the date to beat? Right?

    I'm thinking "anything that can be contracted can be deleted." What's being deleted is the whole history of logical argument.

    It will be interesting to see how the comic effect of because + NP tracks with the open collapse of political argument after the turn of the century.

  41. Sybil said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 11:57 am

    My feeling about the Good Will Hunting example is that it's a slightly different, maybe parallel construction, in which the noun (or phrase, rather) following "because" is an expression of disdain rather than a claim of weak reasoning. I'm not saying this well, but I can't think how to say it better.

    Anyway, I recall seeing "because, well, vagina!" often used when people were describing someone who seemed to be dismissing a woman for not very good reasons and wanted to say that ultimately it was only because she was a woman. (For example, a lot in the 2008 elections.) Here's an instance from 2004:

    http://wilhemina.livejournal.com/175493.html
    "and i wasn't cool because well, vagina."

    That's the earliest I have the stamina to find. It seems to already be well-enough established by then.

  42. Teresa G said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

    A group of us in linguistics had discussed this at one point and thought to call it "Extreme Clausal Ellipsis" for fun.

    My thought is that it's related to "Because hey" constructions like the well-known joke: "If life gives you lemons, keep them, because hey, free lemons" which one can easily imagine being reduced to "because, free lemons."

  43. Seebs said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

    There's a sort of convergence; there's "because noun", there's "because of reasons", and then there's "because reasons".

    I've also seen "therefore noun", e.g., "therefore lesbians" (which I think is someone's tumblr account name).

  44. Sybil said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

    @Theresa G: I don't think that's quite the same thing either. "Because, hey, free lemons: is saying that free lemons are indeed a good thing. "Because logic" or "because, well, vagina" are a caricature of someone else's reasoning, implying that the reasoning is weak.

    It just feels to me that these are "convergent evolution" where similar structures may have arisen out of a common elision process in jokifying.

    (I can't believe I just wrote that last sentence. I wish I had the right vocabulary to say what I mean!)

  45. Rod Johnson said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

    "Jeebus" is certainly older than the Simpsons. My friends and I used it in the (in retrospect rather offensive) faux-black hipster speak we affected in high school in the 70s. I've seen vague attributions to Frank Zappa, Duke Ellington, R. Crumb, Slim Gaillard and Nancy Astor, though nothing specific. Except for the last, they all seem pretty probable.

    There seems to be a tendency to think that the first place something emerges into one's consciousness marks it as THE origin, and that always deserves some skepticism, I think.

  46. Ellen K. said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

    @Sam: Regarding "because racecar", see my post a couple before yours, which probably posted after you started writing yours.

  47. Tora-chan said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

    I've seen 'therefore NOUN' used in a similar way: "there are gaps in the fossil record, therefore Intelligent Design!"

  48. Julie said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    It sounds to me like a Buffy-ism, although there isn't an example from an actual episode available on the tip of my brain.

  49. Laura said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

    I blogged about this a little while ago and someone suggested in a comment that the meaning is “the less grammatical sense we make, the more we are able to drive home the idea that we have been driven to the point of incoherency by our overwhelming emotions/desires etc.” You get a lot of it on Tumblr, where that rings very true.

  50. Laura said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

    And in my post I also noted that you get 'but NOUN' too, and that the NOUN in both constructions is very often (not always, or maybe not even most of the time, but a lot – I haven't counted) a proper noun.

  51. Erik said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

    In my head, I feel like I've been parsing these "because X" constructions with X being essentially an interjection or exclamation, or at the very least a complete thought (as Sam mentioned above).

    Sometimes I feel like it's a case of an aborted beginning of an explanation, as if they were starting to formulate a good reason and then after they get one word into the sentence, they suddenly decide that they don't need to give a real explanation for whatever reason. So more of a "Because — Hey, lemons!" And it doesn't have to be a genuine change of mind; it could just as easily be a way to make the listener/reader expect a more thorough explanation before slamming them with the non-explanation or drastically oversimplified explanation X. Sort of like "You want to know why? I'll tell you why. Listen closely… Fuck you! That's why!"

    But not always. Sometimes it feels more like what Sam was describing earlier, using the same kind of construction as "Because I said so." but replacing "I said so" with a more degenerate clause like "fuck you" or "hey, lemons" or "Science!" (as an exclamation).

    I feel like either of these explanations (or possibly the original elided-of explanation) is the way the construction was intended and heard as it first started gaining currency. (And it really could be all 3 possibilities! Some users of the phrase could have one parsing in mind while others (and some listeners) have a different parsing.) And then later, when people wanted to play with this more, they started filling in the X with increasingly degenerate clauses, well beyond what you'd normally consider a complete thought. It's as though people were thinking "what's the least number of words I can cram in here and still have people understand what I mean?" So instead of saying "Because Gabe is the sort of person that acts that way." we get "Because Gabe." (The implication here being that once you point out to the listener who you're talking about, they'll realize that he's a weirdo and no more explanation is needed.) And this is where you would get things like "Because strict." (You also might get more cases of things like "Because feminism." or "Because Muslims." without any indication that "feminism" or "Muslims" is an exclamation on its own, i.e., no exclamation points or italics or all caps or extra emphasis. This would be hard to judge.)

    Okay, because science, I'm going to propose a vague outline for how we might test this last hypothesis. If we can actually pin down a timeline for the construction, I predict that occurrences of "Because X." where X would be dubious as a complete thought on its own (such as bare adjectives) will cluster towards the more recent uses. It'd be hard to make such distinctions, but perhaps we could look for occurrences of "X." by itself to see whether it has any history as a complete sentence on its own. (You'll find lots of "Fuck you!" and a small scattering of "Science!" but probably no examples of "Strict." except maybe as an answer to a question.)

    Anyway, it's probably an impractical experiment, but I'm trying to be better about thinking sciencely when I play with linguistics hypotheses.

  52. Mona Williams said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

    I first saw this on Huffington Post's Eat the Press, where Jason Linkins seemed to be mocking what he saw as simplistic, buzzword-reliant logic from the opposition: Just give us the buzzword, in other words–we can fill in the rest.

  53. Erin Lazzaro said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

    @gooners

    I don't need to track down the origin to know that Jeebus is older than the Simpsons. I just need to be older than the Simpsons myself. I heard "Save me, Jeebus!" a good ten years before the show aired.

    We thought we were poking fun at rednecks…

  54. Erik said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

    I tried using COCA to find some examples, but it's hard to separate the noise from the signal. There are a lot of things that are probably just transcription errors, sentences with false starts, or accidentally dropped words. And then there are some that seem to be due to dropping words everywhere for style, deliberately trying to sound stilted (as in a character with a bad command of English or in to-do list language). And then there's a similar, but probably not exactly the same, phenomenon involving adjectives. Kind of weird to explain, but here's an example:

    "It is located in a quiet area where real Venetians could still be found going about their business and daily lives, and Antonio had told me it had been a model of urban planning back in the sixteenth century when. the then doge, Andrea Gritti, had consulted with the great architect Sansovino to create a neighborhood around the church of San Francesco della Vigna. Not showy and glittery like the peeling palaces along the Grand Canal, once glamorous beauties now slipping into their dotage, this campo was authentic Venice, surviving because unvisited."

    Anyway, I did manage to find a number of examples dating back to the early 2000's:

    Cheryl Crane, to Larry King (2001): "She couldn't get him out of the house. She couldn't get rid of him. And my react was, `Well, mother, call the police.' And of course, that was last thing in the world she would do because publicity. You know, I mean, it would have been — she felt the end of her career."

    NBC Dateline interview (2005):
    TOM:I definitely kind of viewed him as a suspect.
    KOTB: Why?
    TOM: Well, because motive. He was interested in her, and she seemed to be, you know, dating him but also being very friendly with — with other boys. So there's a jealousy angle in there, too.

    These are interesting to me because they occur in very serious circumstances. But perhaps they're blips or something.

    Some are more clearly intended to be humorous. The data on this next one is weak, but it sounds like a script from a comedic film or TV show. 2005
    ELLIOT Tonight you find out what it means to suffer.
    NICKY Tonight. What's tonight?
    ELLIOT Shit. They don't have any carrot soup.
    NICKY You mean because What's-His-Name.
    ELLIOT You will suffer because he is in the theater. And you will suffer a thousandfold when his review appears.

    I'm always amazed at how casual these sorts of things come across when I try to find them via searching. None of the examples have any of that winking kind of feel to them that our earlier examples had.

    Here's the oldest example I found that seemed appropriate.

    from International gifted women: Developing a critical human resource. (September 1996)
    She offered as an example her cousin of the same age with the same drive for education but whose parents married her to a man whose family does not permit her to advance her education." It's the culture because her household… they are not supportive… It's not that she's not determined." An African woman described her people as highly valuing education as the "only passage" to success. But motivation alone does not assure success: "Because circumstances. I was just lucky, really… I was just born into the right family, and the money to find my way around, and with God's help, I was able to, you know, make it."

  55. Gretchen said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

    I was also part of the tumblr conversation on "because reasons" that Laura mentions, and I noticed that only certain nouns work in the "because X" construction. It seems like only bare nouns work, not NPs/DPs. For example:

    I can't go out tonight because homework/essays.
    *I can't go out tonight because too much homework/an essay.

    More: http://allthingslinguistic.tumblr.com/post/26542624054/because-reasons

  56. erik i said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

    It seems like there are three slightly different types of phrases being discussed:

    1. Because Jesus/because science/because free markets, etc. where the implication is that the logic of the argument is falsely assumed to be self-evident.

    2. Because Pittsburgh,and the other examples in Steve from Pittsburgh's comment, where the more detailed explaination is elided for humorous effect.

    3. Because fuck you, which is an emphatic way of saying "no explaination for you".

    I think #1 and #2 may have a common origin, people who are used to hearing or using #1 may start using #2, but I think #3 is a separate, parallel development.

  57. Chris Waters said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

    @Mr Punch: "'Shut up!', I explained" can be traced back to at least the 1985 novel Skirmish by Melisa C. Michaels.

    The same book also has a related construction to the main one being discussed, in its dedication: "For Mama Cookshack, because I said I would; and for M.V.W. because."

    Indeed, "because", alone, as a proposition probably goes back quite a ways. I would think that "because NOUN" is an easy outgrowth of just plain "because".

  58. Laura said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

    Thanks, Gretchen, for linking to that – I remembered, but Tumblr is useless for re-finding conversations you know you've had.

  59. Sybil said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

    @ Chris Waters: "'Shut up,' he explained" is Ring Lardner (1920)

    http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/21226.html

  60. Steve Morrison said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

    Isn't "Shut up, he explained" from a Ring Lardner story called "The Young Immigrunts"?

  61. John Laviolette said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

    I seem to recall Dave Barry using this pattern in the '80s, both with and without the "because, hey…" variant. I can't recall a specific example, though.

    Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts first started appearing in National Lampoon in 1984 and became a syndicated newspaper feature in the '80s, eventually getting collected into a book in 1992. One of his quotes was: "If you ever fall off the Sears tower, just go real limp, because maybe you'll look like a dummy, and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy." Although that uses the "because, hey…" variant, there's also a touch of skipping over weak reasoning.

  62. John Laviolette said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 9:20 pm

    Also, I think we can read more into Erik's breakdown of three different phrases ("Because SCIENCE!", "Because Pittsburgh", "Because FUCK YOU".) What they all share is: a short phrase that explains nothing, but acts as a barrier to further discussion, either because it's nonsensical, humorous, or hostile. "Hey, free dummy" fits that pattern, and it's clearly paralleled in the Ring Lardner quote, which is pretty famous and probably the ancestor of a lot of the humorous literary examples.

  63. Teresa G said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

    As @Erik mentioned it's hard to separate the noise from the signal when doing a search for these. But I've noticed this construction used quite often on websites devoted to making fun of pop culture, "Cracked" in particular. Here's a recent example from an article that ran in March 2012:

    "Supergirl is Superman's teenage cousin who, by a staggering coincidence, also survived Krypton's explosion and arrived on Earth, because comics."

    So limiting one's search to a few likely sites might be one way to go.

  64. Chris Sundita said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 11:24 pm

    I see this construction a lot on reddit…

  65. Rohan F said,

    July 12, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

    @Erik, the "because ADJ" construction in the "surviving because unvisited" kind of form is quite old. I know of two from William Penn's writings, one with an adjective and one with a noun phrase:

    "Bitterness comes very near to Enmity, and that is Beelzebub; because the Perfection of Wickedness." (because NP) – Some Fruits of Solitude, 1682

    "This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal." (because ADJ) – More Fruits of Solitude, 1702

    The modern constructions are almost certainly reinventions rather than continuations of the older ones, though.

  66. Eugene said,

    July 13, 2012 @ 2:25 am

    My hunch is that Pete and others are on the right track in saying that it was originally a response to something like "Because why?"
    We've all heard that one, right? It's challenging and maybe a little disrespectful. It merits a parallel response – "Because X."
    I also like Mike's reduction hypothesis (because'a X), and I don't think the two are incompatible.

  67. KathrynM said,

    July 13, 2012 @ 7:12 am

    Erik and Rohan F., I think the "surviving because unvisited" and "ever present because immortal" are rather different from the "because logic" construction.
    In each of those cases, a pronoun and verb have been omitted because the verb has already been used in the prior, parallel, clause: "this campo was authentic Venice, surviving because [it was] unvisited" "their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because [they are] immortal." There is no parallel clause in "because logic."

    "Because" by itself as a response has been used by generations of parents when dealing with repetitive demands to know "why?"–along with similar phrases: "Just because": "because I said so."

  68. Sybil said,

    July 13, 2012 @ 9:19 am

    XKCD today is pertinent. (Does he follow LL?)

    http://xkcd.com/1081/

  69. Erik said,

    July 13, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

    I agree that the "surviving because uninvited" phenomenon is completely different (and probably completely unrelated) and much older. I only pointed it out to note it as another obstacle to trying to find good examples.

  70. KathrynM said,

    July 13, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

    Ah! Apologies, Erik–I should have read you more carefully.

  71. Rod Johnson said,

    July 13, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

    My friend V (who may very well be reading this, hi V) just ended a litany of miscellaneous complaints with "In conclusion, STUFF." I really think the becauses and therefores are pretty extraneous, and what's really going on here is a humorous use of NOUN to mean "everything that NOUN implies."

  72. Joshua said,

    July 14, 2012 @ 12:50 am

    Erik: "You mean because What's-His-Name" is from the screenplay of the movie "Game 6" written by Don DeLillo, because http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/game_6.html and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0425055/.

  73. Viseguy said,

    July 14, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

    I wonder if texting has made this expression more common. Because shorthand.

  74. T.J. said,

    July 15, 2012 @ 1:31 am

    I thought it was an unintentionally ironic [sic] Ron Paul thing. For years, the only way I ever encountered it was as "Because freedom" in dead earnest without any additional argument. The more I saw it, the more unintentionally funny it got.

  75. Rod Johnson said,

    July 15, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    Another random data point: "I don't always use the internet at work…but when I do, eyebrows." (Yeah, I don't get it either–it's a Breaking Bad reference.)

  76. Liz Coleman said,

    July 15, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

    Makes me think of the Underwear Gnomes skipping over the troublesome processes of logic to arrive at the desired result.
    Step One: Collect Underwear
    Step Two: …
    Step Three: PROFIT!

    To arrive at the word construction in question, you'd ask them:
    "Why are you collecting underwear?"
    "Because…PROFIT!

  77. m.m. said,

    July 15, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

    Dont forget the older 'because duh' ala valspeak

  78. Alan Curry said,

    July 15, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

    The guy with the eyebrows is a minor character from Breaking Bad, but the joke isn't referencing the show. It's probably referencing the Dos Equis commercials with the Most Interesting Man In The World ("I don't always drink beer, but when I do…") and it's definitely using "eyebrows" as a substitute for "I browse".

  79. Rod Johnson said,

    July 15, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

    Can't believe I missed that, because duh! OK, so not a data point but a lame pun.

  80. Tim J said,

    July 15, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

    I think Because logic really means Because [insert string of logic here]—it's humorous because (i) it deliberately interrupts the syntax and (ii) it implies that the specifics of the logic are irrelevant. It basically means "finish this argument however you like". That's how I hear it. Because reasons could be interpreted as working the same kind of way, or as just an interruption in the syntax.

  81. Because I say so said,

    July 17, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

    >It might have crept in from Spanish, in which "why" and "because" are basically the same word.

    "por qué" = "porque"
    Yeah, sure

  82. Ben Zimmer said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 11:45 am

    For the "because [interjection]" files, this headline on Gawker today: "Fierce Asian Kid Lip Dubs Beyoncé’s ‘Countdown’ While Wearing a Snuggie Because Of Course."

  83. Ben Zimmer said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

    Meanwhile, The Onion's AV Club gives us: "…producers have dispiritedly announced that they are now developing a TLC reality show about former baseball star Pete Rose, because whatever."

  84. Terra said,

    July 21, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

    I'm a little late to the party, but…

    This usage has been around for a looong time, certainly decades, possibly longer, as anyone who has ever spent time with young children could likely tell you. And, in fact, the phrase's origin in the language of young children is likely why it's used by adults as an indicator of weak reasoning.

    Children frequently elide the "of" when they use the phrase as part of something they're saying when whining to a parent.

    "Whine, whine, whine! Because REASONS, Mommy!"

  85. Rod Johnson said,

    July 23, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

    "Then there is the part where Damon Lindelof basically says that they as writers deliberately stopped caring about answering the plot questions halfway through the movie. "So we set up all these questions and then it's like, forget about that! We're in survival mode now, and it's all action." Which, fuck you."

    (In case anyone's still looking down here.)

  86. Melissa Peskin said,

    August 12, 2012 @ 1:40 am

    I think the first time I saw this construction was in the picture of Paula Deen captioned "Your argument is invalid because butter." Here's a link to a forum post requesting this picture in November 2010: http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=1903899&userid=0&perpage=40&pagenumber=144

    I believe this was a later variation on the "your argument is invalid" meme, which usually has that line at the end. "My hair is a bird. Your argument is invalid." featuring Nicholas Cage is here: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/your-argument-is-invalid
    and "There is a windmill in my beard…" is here: http://www.cs.sunysb.edu/~tashbook/spring2010/ise108/windmill-beard.html

    I could see the Paula Deen caption being one of the early uses that popularized this construction, but I have no evidence besides the 2010 forum post which predates the examples given above.

  87. Evan Williams said,

    January 7, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

    Whatever the origin of "because NOUN," the norms of texting tend to blunt my reaction to this construction. Also, it reads less glaring if I imagine a colon after "because."

    I love language change!

  88. ShawnT said,

    February 2, 2013 @ 10:45 am

    I think the Slate screenshot about the Twitter error is just a software error. And even if it is an intentional joke I don't think that's as much a reflection of English usage as it is just programmer humor.

    This looks to me like a template that did that didn't get filled in properly. Noticing that the browser had not retrieved images and that the page had not been styled, it might have been simply because the user's browser didn't have scripting enabled (although I kind of doubt that's what happened.)

    There might be some amusing irony here, but from the standpoint of the article, focusing on the "reason" part is pretty stupid if you ask me. However, it's possible that this is still essentially the source of the "because NOUN" pattern.

    Seems to me that it's generally a bad idea to parametize a sentence by dropping words into a partially formed one. Better would be to just leave a placeholder for the entire message. I can assure you that I've worked with many developers who treat everything like a program and want to shoehorn everything into neat little structures like this. It probably took an second person to come along and adapt it as a language joke.

  89. Elijah said,

    March 16, 2013 @ 8:52 am

    I read through this thread a few days ago in the course of my on-going research into my son's turns of phrase. I know it is a year old but…Duty Calls. :)
    I agree that the one-word-answer-to-a-complex-question construction is close, but I think it is more a reflection of the aphorism "When you have a hammer, all your problems look like nails", with the sense of one big solution that defines every problem in its own terms. If it refers to someone or something else, it implies weak reasoning:

    "because…Intelligent Design!"

    or a concept that is so over-reaching as to claim to address the current situation:

    "because…Communism!"

    But if the phrase refers to yourself, you are avoiding needless detail, either because the answer is made obvious by your enthusiasm:

    "because…race car!"

    or because you just want to grab the biggest hammer you can to address the problem and move on:

    "because…Physics!"

    So when applied to others it implies weak reasoning, when applied to yourself, it is being efficient. :)

  90. Vera Wilhelmsen said,

    April 3, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    I think a similar thing is happening in Swedish, especially on Twitter: the fixed expressions "på grund av" (because of), shortened pga., usually requires an infinitive phrase or a "that"-sentence after it, but now they simply write pga. NOUN or pga. PHRASE. I have also heard "because of reasons" in Swedish (på grund av orsaker). Here is a link to a Swedish broadcast on the subject: http://sverigesradio.se/sida/avsnitt/163005?programid=411

  91. Neal Whitman said,

    October 20, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

    I wrote an episode for Grammar Girl on this topic, collating information from this post, the comments to this post, links in the comments to this post, and a few other sites that I found in my research.

  92. Stan Carey said,

    November 14, 2013 @ 5:45 am

    This whole thread is fascinating. For what it's worth, I wrote a post at Sentence first on "because X" with examples from the wild showing this maybe-prepositional because yoked not just to nouns but to verbs, adjectives, interjections, etc.

  93. Gretchen McCulloch said,

    November 25, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

    To add to the list of follow-ups, I wrote a post at All Things Linguistic with more on the origins of the expression, why I don't think it came from "because, hey" (sorry, Neal!) and a possible relationship to a webcomic and the phrase "I want this because of reasons".

  94. Gerben Vos said,

    March 17, 2014 @ 6:36 am

    Possibly related: I occasionally encounter a similar "if noun-phrase" construct, like at https://plus.google.com/106271056358366282907/posts/GoeVjHJaGBz : "For me the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense if a fire."

  95. Dan W said,

    April 26, 2014 @ 8:11 am

    First use I know of was an ad for Atlantic Canada from 1986.
    http://oppositelock.jalopnik.com/because-noun-from-1986-1554790292

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