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.
"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"
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.
because alwayscreate was specified
because beatles lyrics
because bureaucracies are so rule-based they
because cats iphone case
because dave clark five
because dennis is a bastard man
because days come and go
because environment variable django_settings_module is undefined