Because, in 1 Chart

An exploration of what we know and want to know about a simple word
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The way Americans use the word "because" is changing, as chronicled by my colleague Megan Garber.

So, I got curious about the word "because." I've been playing with a bot—a little bit of code—that probes what Google suggests to searchers. Google makes these suggestions on the basis of what people have previously searched. So, I see it as a way to see into the collective consciousness. Basically, the bot works by typing "because a" and see what Google says. Then, "because b," and "because c," and so on. All those suggestions get compiled and we can play with the file. 

I tried this for the first time with "Bitcoin" yesterday, but my probe yielded mostly predictable results

"Because," on the other hand, yielded delightful results. They were particularly interesting because almost all of them could be classified into one of six categories, and the outliers are ... so, so strange. 

First, let me show you some example searches from each category:

Music/Lyrics: "because he lives hymn," "because the night lyrics," "because elliott smith" 

Language Queries: "because grammar," "because Korean," "because part of speech"

Memes: "because aliens," "because China," "because race car"

Product/Organization: "because foundation," "because bags," "because justice matters"

Quotes: "because knowledge is power gi joe," "because dennis is a bastard man," "because good is dumb"

Coding/Computer/Homework Help: "because alwayscreate was specified," "as much because x as because y," "because xlive.dll"

OK, now, get this: When I applied these categories to the 104 suggestions Google had given around the word "because," all but nine made sense in one of these categories. Granted, I was stretching things a little, as in the search "because vine," which I classified under memes because I assume people are looking for the short video on Vine of Rihanna saying "because." (Trust me, this is a thing.)

But with that caveat, here's the pie chart of these categories. 

Just look at how many of the searches are around music and lyrics! Along with language questions, that's more than 50 percent of Google's suggestions. 

I can't quite tell you why, but I found this fascinating. 

Some of the particular searches yield bizarre results, too. 

Take: "because bureaucracies are so rule-based they." This turns out to be a quote from an old AP Government exam! For some reason, students (I assume) were typing this quote into Google. Or maybe it was teachers trying to catch students? I'm still not sure. 

Or another weird one: "because zombies can't jump." There is a game called "Zombies Can't Jump." But there's no reason to Google "because zombies can't jump." At least no reason that enough people would have that they'd show up on Google's radar. 

A last interesting example: "because pronunciation." As a native American English speaker, I don't really think about the fact that Americans tend to say "because" as "becuz." But people learning English find it confusing, at least according to this video, which is the top search result. 

What's the point of these kind of detailed analyses of individual searches? Well, Google (and to a lesser extent Bing), define the informational boundaries during most people's first step in knowledge gathering. Their suggestions both reflect and influence what people know and want to know about a topic. 

There is a complex web of Internet and pop culture, education and work, that surround even a simple word like "because." 

Here's the full list, along with my codings. 

String Category
because aliens Meme
because abbreviation Language
because alwayscreate was specified Coding
because asl Language
because beatles Music/Lyrics
because beatles lyrics Music/Lyrics
because bags Product
because bureaucracies are so rule-based they Homework
because china Meme
because comma Language
because cats Meme
because cats iphone case Meme
because dave clark five Music/Lyrics
because dennis is a bastard man Quote
because definition Language
because days come and go Music/Lyrics
because environment variable django_settings_module is undefined Coding
because elliott smith Music/Lyrics
because every mother matters Organization
because everyone else is boring Quote
because french Language
because foundation Organization
because fitness Organization
because freedom Meme
because grammar Language
because good is dumb Quote
because guitar chords Music/Lyrics
because god is real Product
because he lives Music/Lyrics
because he lives lyrics Music/Lyrics
because he lives chords Music/Lyrics
because he lives hymn Music/Lyrics
because i got high Music/Lyrics
afroman because i got high lyrics Music/Lyrics
because i said so Misc
because i said i would Organization
because justice matters Organization
because justice matters rise Organization
because japan Meme
because jesus Meme
because knowledge is power Quote
because kids count conference Organization
because knowledge is power gi joe Quote
because korean Language
because lyrics Music/Lyrics
because life is short and you are hot Quote
because lyrics beatles Music/Lyrics
because lee hi lyrics Music/Lyrics
because massage Misc
because music Music/Lyrics
because music is my heartbeat shoes Music/Lyrics
because maybe Quote
because nice matters Misc
because not only but also Language
because nobody likes bras Misc
because ninjas are too busy Misc
because of you Music/Lyrics
because of winn dixie Product
because of you lyrics Music/Lyrics
because of who you are Music/Lyrics
because part of speech Language
because preposition Language
because punctuation Language
because pronunciation Language
because quotes Quote
p because q Misc
because quitters quit Quote
because quotes tumblr Quote
because racecar Meme
because reasons Meme
because resources are scarce Homework
because rihanna vine Meme
because synonym Language
because shanna said so Misc
because song Music/Lyrics
because sunggyu lyrics Music/Lyrics
because the night Music/Lyrics
because the internet Meme
because the night lyrics Music/Lyrics
because thesaurus Language
because u loved me Music/Lyrics
because u loved me lyrics Music/Lyrics
because usage Language
because used in a sentence Language
because vine Meme
because vs since Language
because vs due to Language
because vs that Language
because we can Misc
because we can lyrics Music/Lyrics
because we can tour Music/Lyrics
because we want to Music/Lyrics
because x Language
as much because x as because y Homework
because xm Organization
because xlive.dll Coding
because you loved me Music/Lyrics
because you loved me lyrics Music/Lyrics
because you live lyrics Music/Lyrics
because you loved me mp3 Music/Lyrics
because zombies can't jump Misc
because zinc has nearly the same Homework
because zlib1.dll Coding
because zombies are coming dear Meme
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Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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