‘Because X’ in Finnish and Norwegian, because borrowing

Languages often borrow from one another: it’s a common source of linguistic growth and change. Normally what gets borrowed is words, called ‘loans’, ‘loanwords’, or ‘borrowings’ (though the terms suggest eventual return, which isn’t how it works). Any word that isn’t a loanword is a native word.

English is a frequent borrower, being full of loanwords from many other languages. This ability to integrate foreign forms is one reason for its success. And it goes both ways: because of English’s status and reach, it’s a common ‘donor language’ for others. The World Loanword Database is a useful resource on the phenomenon.

Less often, other linguistic elements are borrowed, like grammatical structures or pronunciations. An example of the former is because X, a popular construction in informal English.* I first wrote about because X in 2013, elsewhere picking it as my word of the year (the American Dialect Society later did likewise). Such was its impact that the phrase was discussed not just by linguists but by more mainstream outlets.

From my original post:

Because X is fashionably slangy at the moment, diffusing rapidly across communities. . . . However it arose, it seems to be spreading. Language loves economy, and the sheer efficiency of this use of because is likely boosting its popularity.

Or, more succinctly:

So it should not surprise us to find that the usage has been borrowed by other languages. I got provisional confirmation of one, Norwegian, in a tweet from @Joakimpb in January 2014:

Then recently I got an email from Ian Mac Eochagáin, an Irishman living in Helsinki, who shared this photo of an ad for Volkswagen in the Finnish magazine Suomen Kuvalehti.

because X Koska perhe in Finnish - Ian Mac Eochagáin

Ian writes:

‘Täysin uusi’ means ‘completely new’. ‘Koska perhe’ means ‘because family’ in Finnish. The ‘because noun’ construction has become something of a thing in Finnish, I’ve noticed. It’s not normal for Finnish grammar and seems to have been borrowed from English. I remember seeing a sign in a Helsinki bar saying the terrace was closed at 22:00 ‘because Helsinki’, referring to the city by-law. […] It’s become entrenched.

Because X in Finnish, koska perhe, is rendered in the marketing campaign as a hashtag (#koskaperhe), underscoring its informality and trendiness. Though the hashtag has a company website named after it, the fact that only two tweets appear to have used it (one of them critically) doesn’t flatter the corporation’s use of Twitter.

In any case, it made me wonder if because X has become a calque or loan translation in any other languages as a result of its emergence and increasing mainstream use in English. It certainly has a history in a few, in some cases presumably independent of English influence. Here are some tweets on its occurrence in various dialects and languages:

It’s also older than I thought:

[*

* Also called because NOUN or prepositional because, but I tend to stick with because X because the construction also licenses verbs, adjectives and interjections, and because the ‘prepositional’ description is disputed.

8 Responses to ‘Because X’ in Finnish and Norwegian, because borrowing

  1. Sister_Ray says:

    German has “aus Gründen” as a translation of “because reasons” which is around a lot on twitter but my feeling is it’s already on the downswing again.

    Why it didn’t become “weil Gründe”, I’m not sure, but probably because the first version just sounds better and seems slightly more natural/grammatical.
    As to “weil X” – that’s complicated, I think. There are a couple of examples on twitter but often it’s not completely bare and people tend to add something to make it sound more natural, e.g. “weil Wind und so”, “Weil Virtuelle Gaming Welten eben”, but I also found a “Weil Terror.”

    • Stan Carey says:

      That’s interesting and helpful, thank you. The version with aus has an analogue in the versatile English phrase out of when used to indicate someone’s motivation, e.g., They did it out of spite/concern. But it hasn’t been extended to slangy contexts like out of reasons, as far as I know.

      Someone on Twitter has told me anecdotally about the use of because X in Spanish; I’ve added her tweet to the post.

  2. I have never heard anyone saying “because + noun”. Am I THAT far out of the loop?

    • Stan Carey says:

      I think it’s very much an online usage so far. I’ve seldom come across it elsewhere, and even then it has felt like a nod to internet culture. Whether it leaks into more mainstream offline usage remains to be seen.

  3. Because Twitter? Because 140 characters?

    • Stan Carey says:

      Twitter wasn’t around in 1949, at which time because X was already appearing in books (well, one anyway). But the platform’s character restriction probably encouraged the usage, if that’s what you’re asking.

      • Suggesting, rather than asking. Nancy Mitford was waaay ahead of her time! Having teenagers who sometimes watch Disney Channel teen shows, American teenagers seem to use this sort of construction a lot, with heavy inflection and great use of pauses, usually sounding questioning. “Because…. cats?” with the subtext that it is the explanation for something very obvious. It may or may not be followed by “Duh!”

      • Stan Carey says:

        She certainly was! It’s interesting that the expression is showing up on teen TV – it’s obviously beginning to spread offline. Thanks for letting me know.

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