Because: 2013's Word Of The Year

By Steve West 2014-01-06 11:36:18
You may not know this, but there are awards given out each year to words and phrases. The American Dialect Society is responsible for voting on and awarding these honors, and for 2013 the big winner was “because.” This mundane conjunction won the “Most Useful” category, and the reason is simple: “because Internet.” We at Cinema Blend love words, especially those that just sound cool. Truly cool words, however, are those that help define culture. Bonus points should be awarded to very old words that get revitalized and revamped, such as the case with “because.”

The American Dialect Society’s 2013 Words of the Year is far more interesting than whatever trendy word Webster decides to add. These nominations are a fantastic exploration of the changing human vernacular. The Society does not restrict its love of words and phraseology to adhere to the strict standards of writing. Conversational tone is as relevant in today’s world as any standardized writing structure. That is celebrated in the 2013 nominations, as well as the winners.

“This past year, the very old word because exploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use,” Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, said in a statement explaining the choice. “No longer does because have to be followed by of or a full clause. Now one often sees tersely worded rationales like ‘because science’ or ‘because reasons.’”

That is a beautiful thing to read from a group of people who are ostensibly in charge of celebrating the use of language. Their understanding that casual Internet speak, and even a casual tone in professional writing, is valid makes sense in a world that is so reliant on abbreviated casual correspondence. It speaks to the 125 year old institution’s levity in their exploration of language that such words and phrases as “selfie,” “catfish,” “revenge porn,” and “sharknado” were up for discussion of relevant words in 2013.

My favorite category is “Most Euphemistic:”
least untruthful: involving the smallest necessary lie (used by intelligence director James Clapper)
demised: laid off from employment (used by the bank HSBC).
slimdown: reinterpretation of “shutdown” used on Fox News site.

Firstly, the category’s title contains a wonderful word. It also showcases how words can be used to bend, betray, and falsely color a situation. You weren’t “fired,” your position with the company has just been “demised.” The winner of this category is “least untruthful,” a phrase used by Intelligence director James Clapper. How beautiful is that phrase? It’s a lie, but only a lie that is just big enough to get what you want. There’s no need for collateral damage when you’re being the “least untruthful.”

The American Dialect Society has no qualms with celebrating the fun in words, and that’s why this list of nominations and winners is so great. It may appear that such a pretentious sounding foundation would be austere in its voting, but they included “thigh gap” and then made sure to include “box gap” as a synonymous version of the phrase.

Of course this is the same society that awarded Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness” word of the year in 2005. It’s also interesting to look back at earlier years and see where we were as a society. The American Dialect Society has not been an authority on changing language, or making waves in the world of linguistics. They simply like to have fun with words, and to celebrate both the wonderful and the quirky.
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