Because stupid the American Dialect Society’s vote to make “because” its Word of the Year for 2013.
Like, as if. Not! Totally.
The boffins at A.D.S. recently announced that “because” is the 2013 Word of the Year. Because?
“The very old word because exploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use,” went Ben Zimmer, language columnist for Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal. “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!”
Because barf. I mean, really? Because Yoda. Stupid this word is.
Because better is … drumroll please … my Word of the Year for 2013 …
Because much better. Metadata are data about data. Metadata describe other data. As we learned all too well in 2013, every action we take in the digital world creates metadata, and some courts, agencies, and governments consider metadata to be part of the public record, even if the actual contents of the transaction might be considered private.
Example: J. Edgar is prohibited by law from reading your email or listening to your phone calls, because you are an American citizen and because there is no probable cause to suspect you of consorting with international terrorists. But J. Edgar can collect the metadata of, say, your mobile phone calls to learn:
Your phone number. All the numbers you called. All the numbers that called you. The unique serial number of your phone and the phones you connect with. The time and date and duration of every call you make and take. Your location, even when you are not making or receiving calls.
The government argues that gathering metadata is no different from collecting information from the outside of an envelope sent through the United States Postal Service. Which we now know it does, too.* I can look at the envelope to determine the name and address of the sender, the name and address of the recipient, the location of the post office where it was postmarked, the date and perhaps time it was sent, the size and weight of the envelope, and presumably the fingerprints or DNA of the person who licked the envelope. Those are metadata.
And, the government argues, these metadata are “transactional,” so there is no need to prove probable cause to collect them.
Thus, the White House argued, it was perfectly acceptable to collect the metadata detailing the office and personal phone calls of Associated Press, Washington Post and New York Times reporters and editors, which it secretly did in 2012. The fact that the government could then see which reporters were calling sources at the White House and in the U.S. House of Representatives, and vice versa, was therefore NOT an invasion of the journalists’ privacy and certainly NOT a violation of the First Amendment.
Too bad Richard Nixon didn’t have the same tools that George W. Bush and Barack Obama argue they are free to use today. Tricky Dick could have nailed “Deep Throat” just by gathering metadata from Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s home and office phones.
Even if one never makes a call, a mobile phone generates metadata. The networks have to know where the phone is, geographically, in order to connect its calls. That geographic information is metadata.
In United States of America v Maynard, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote in 2010:
A person who knows all of another‘s travels can deduce whether he is a weekly church goer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups — and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.
Because metadata. It knows when you are sleeping (and possibly with whom), it knows when you’re awake (and where you are), it knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake.
Metadata: Our Word of the Year for 2o13.
* Remind me to tell you about my escapades with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Patty Hearst, and the Symbionese Liberation Army.