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I have been thinking about a feature of English that seems to have emerged very recently. "because" and "because of" really are two different words: the former a conjunction the latter a preposition.

I came inside because it was raining.

I came inside because of the rain.

However, there seems to be a cool, hip trendy way of speaking that sort of blurs the two:

I flunked my mid-term because covid.

I am absolutely soaking because rain.

I was wondering if this really is a new grammatical form in the English language, or if there is some history behind it, and if there are other conjunction/preposition pairs that have suffered the same fate.

I also wonder if there should be a comma after "because" in this novel form, it just seems to demand a rhetorical pause.

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  • I prefer to think of it as the predicate after the noun bring elided. ... because covid [happened] ... because rain [is wet] Such that to those that are hip the predicate is obvious and unnecessary
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 6:05
  • No: there's no new form. They are simply ungrammatical in Standard English.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 8:17
  • @BillJ, I could not disagree more. In a sense you are right, it is ungrammatical in current English grammar books but English grammar is descriptive not proscriptive, and changes all the time. This is a VERY commonly used construction even among literate. It is, for example, not at all uncommon in newspapers .So, for better or worse, it is what English grammar is. And, FWIW, I find it delightfully laconic and emphatic. English is what its literate speakers say it is. Quite literally.
    – Fraser Orr
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 13:50
  • I've never come across it, but if it really is a "very commonly used construction even among the literate (and newspapers)", as you claim, then why ask if this really is a new grammatical form in the English language? You seem to have answered your own question! In any case, I can't see anything to be gained by dropping the prep "of". Btw, "because it rained" is a preposition + content clause complement, and "because of the rain" is a preposition + PP complement.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 14:28
  • Another way to think about it is an elision of: “I flunked my mid-term because, (in a word): covid.” “I am absolutely soaking because (in a word): rain.”
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 22:26

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According to "Because Meaning: Language Change through Iconicity in Internet Speak" by Anneliise Rehn, because has long been "followed by a reduced form, most commonly an Adjective or Adjectival Phrase," as in this example from 1783: "[the cattle were] sold along the way because tired or lame," here meaning "because they were tired or lame" (p. 3). So what is new about this construction is not so much its syntax as its "new semantic and pragmatic associations" (p. 6).

As for the origins of this new usage, Rehn states (p. 6):

Several theories have been advanced. The comment section of a Language Log post holds almost as many origin theories as there are commenters; everyone remembers hearing it first a different time (Liberman 2012). One origin suggestion in the comments points to January 2011 craigslist ad which started a because racecar meme. Another commenter suggests the sign off because fuck you which stretches as far back as 2001. Another pushes the date further back still, all the way to the 1980s with one of a series of Deep Thoughts on the television show Saturday Night Live, which had the following sentence (emphasis added):

(10) 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. (quoted by John Laviolette in Liberman 2012)

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