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The strange evolution of 'because'
Because reasons
"Because" is useful. "Sharknado" is just unnecessary.

"Because" is useful. "Sharknado" is just unnecessary.

(Facebook.com/Sharknado)
W

e've been talking about words of the year for a month now. Oxford Dictionaries chose "selfie" as its word of the year; Merriam-Webster chose "science." "Twerk" got a lot of attention, but didn't manage to top any lists, though it did make Lake Superior State University's annual Banished Words List. The American Dialect Society waits until the year is completely finished before holding its vote for the word of the year, a lively event, now in its 24th year, that was held Friday. Here are some of the words that were up for discussion.

BECAUSE

Because won for Word of the Year, which might seem strange for a word that's been around for so long, but this year it "exploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use," says Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society. "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.' You might not go to a party 'because tired.' As one supporter put it, because should be Word of the Year 'because useful!'"

It won over a roomful of linguists who find the development of a whole new kind of sentence structure especially interesting. Because grammar!

ACC

Standing for "aggressive carbon-copy," as in when you CC the boss on an email in order to undermine the recipient. This was a contender for the "Most Useful" category, but because won there too.

CATFISH

This word for the practice of misrepresenting yourself online won for "Most Creative" over doge, the new meme that pairs funny phrases with pictures of a Shiba Inu dog, but only by six votes in a runoff.

UNDERBUTT

In another runoff vote, underbutt beat revenge porn for "Most Outrageous."

-SHAMING

Yet another runoff vote had to be held in the "Most Productive" category. This category, new this year, selects the combining form that has been most productive in yielding new words. The ending found in terms like slut-shaming, fat-shaming, and pet-shaming won out over –splaining (from mansplaining, whitesplaining, journosplaining, etc.).

SHARKNADO

Winner for "Most Unnecessary" by a landslide. Cronut didn't even have a chance. Really, who does when faced with a sharknado?

LEAST UNTRUTHFUL

This phrase, used by intelligence director James Clapper, won for "Most Euphemistic."

BINGE-WATCH

Beat ObamaCare, glasshole, and drone as word "Most Likely to Succeed."

THANKSGIVUKKAH

The rare joint occurrence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will not be seen again in our lifetimes, so this word was a pretty safe bet for "Least Likely to Succeed."

Arika Okrent is editor-at-large at TheWeek.com and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. She is the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a history of the attempt to build a better language. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and a first-level certification in Klingon.

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