I haven't had a rant about words and language for a while, so maybe it's time. Today's peeve is a phrase I've been hearing increasingly often in the last couple of years: “the reason is because”.
The polar ice caps may melt because the climate is warming.If we split it into two sentences, we can say it two ways:
The polar ice caps may melt. That is because the climate is warming.So far, we're fine. But here's what I've been hearing a lot of:
The polar ice caps may melt. The reason is that the climate is warming.
The polar ice caps may melt. The reason is because the climate is warming.
And that just feels wrong. I think it comes from an intermediate step:
The polar ice caps may melt because the climate is warming.That's wrong too, but we can see where it comes from, by simply adding “the reason ... is” to the sentence. Now when we turn that into two sentences, we get that silly phrase, “the reason is because”.
The reason the polar ice caps may melt is because the climate is warming.
A related (but broader) construction that I also hear too often is “is is” (hey, how often can you use “is” three times in a row like that, hm?):
The reason the polar ice caps may melt is, is that the climate is warming.This one is always spoken, never written. I've put the comma in there because I think that's how the speaker's mind works when he says it — there's a mental pause, which results in the replicated “is”. It's often spoken, though, with the “is is” together with no pause.
Anyway, “the reason is because” is a case of an incorrect modifier. It's much like “the price of the item is expensive” — no, the item is “expensive”; its price is “high”. There's a similar error here: [A] is because of [B], so the reason for [A] is [B] (not “because of” [B]). As sentences get complicated it's easy to lose track of what goes with what, which modifies which. Then we develop bad habits that we take back to the simple sentences.
It, uh, stands to reason.